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Adult social care budget cut by £2.68bn over three years

NHS funds switch to social care are not enough, warn directors

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 08 May 2013

Social care budgets will need to be squeezed by another £800m over the next year despite large injections of money from the NHS intended to ease pressures on the sector, it has been claimed.

Results of a survey published today by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) showed that directors are planning to save another £800m in the 12 months to April as part of £2.68bn cuts made in three years.

These savings which will mean a substantial squeeze on services for older people, people with disabilities and on fees to providers, despite “much welcomed” resources being transferred from the NHS to local authority-funded social care.

The latest ADASS annual survey of social care budgets which gathered results from 145 out of 152 top-tier social services authorities in England, showed directors were pessimistic about services.

Overall, in the three years since the beginning of the current austerity programme in 2011, some £2.68 billion savings will have been made by adult social care - 20% of net spending.

Social care leaders said that although many of these savings had been achieved by increased efficiencies, these efficiencies were not simple “back-office” adjustments, but were gained by “providing different, more cost effective packages of care, or reduced levels of care, to many elderly or disabled people.”

Of the £806m reported as received by councils from the NHS transfer in 2013-14 (out of a total of £859m), 32% had been allocated to avoid cuts (£253m), while 14% was allocated to cover demographic pressure, 18% allocated for investment in new services, and 36% had yet to be allocated (£291m).

Two noticeable trends indicated by the survey showed that 13% of the planned savings (£104 million) would result in direct withdrawal of services, while nearly a fifth of councils thought that a reduction in the levels of personal budgets would be highly important.

Directors said areas likely to be highly important as aids to saving resources in the coming year included shifting activity to cheaper settings (40%), increased personalisation (47%), and better procurement practices (68%).

However, when asked which areas had been affected by savings to date, 30% of directors said that fewer people could access services, and nearly 50% said that providers were facing financial difficulties.

ADASS president Sandie Keene said: “Gazing into the next two years, without additional investment from that already planned, an already bleak outlook becomes even bleaker.

“Directors everywhere are well aware of the difficult economic choices the country is facing and having to make. We are well aware of the enormous help given to our departments by inward transfers of NHS funds. Social services departments, too, have gone many an extra mile to make their services more efficient.

“However, taking all these views and developments into consideration, it is absolutely clear that all the ingenuity and skill that we have brought to cushioning vulnerable people as far as possible from the effects of the economic circumstances cannot be stretched any further, and that some of the people we have responsibilities for may be affected by serious reductions in service – with more in the pipeline over the next two years.”

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