There are an increasing number of local news reports coming through of cuts being made to social care provision and charges for it being put up. Unfortunately, this is going to be repeated across the UK in the coming months.
In the past day or so, 2 stories have come across my radar, both of which detail aspects of social care cuts in local authority areas.
These are just taken at random and happen to be the ones that appeared in my inbox. There have been others over the past few weeks and there will be more to come, these are just to illustrate my point.
Firstly, www.getwokingham.co.uk reported that Wokingham Borough Council has confirmed that it will no longer offer free services to people with savings of more than £23,250 and will introduce a £16.30-a-day charge for day care services.
Meanwhile, Community Care carried a story about Derbyshire County Council’s plans to save about £4 million a year by ramping up its eligibility threshold for social care services.
I suspect that many more councils will follow suit as budget cuts really begin to bite. The oft-quoted figure of 25% savings having to be found still haunts managers and commissioners in local authorities who will have to make some very uncomfortable decisions in the coming months.
I don’t wish to be the harbinger of doom, but, well, I’m going to be; these cuts could get deeper too. The comprehensive spending review, which sets local authority spending budgets for the next 3 years, is in October, and with cutting the UK’s deficit at the top of the government’s priority list, there are likely to be more cuts to come.
While many politicians claim that cuts won’t affect frontline services, it seems to me to be political flannel. Cuts of that magnitude will inevitably affect frontline services, as the 2 reports above show.
Currently 72% of council have their eligibility criteria set at ‘substantial’. Meanwhile, 24% will cater for people with ‘moderate’ needs and only 1% provide services for people with ‘critical’ needs, according to the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adults Social Services.
I reckon that the percentage of councils catering only for ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs will rise in the next year, which will mean that increasing numbers of people with moderate needs will be left out of the care system, unless they can pay for it themselves.
The government has talked about a focus on early intervention and prevention – which is to be applauded – and will help to keep people independent for longer. There is also a focus on those with the highest needs, as there should be.
But this leaves an enormous hole in the middle of people with moderate to quite complex needs who, unless they are lucky enough to live in an area that isn’t scrabbling around for every penny it can find, won’t be getting any services.
To me, there are inevitable knock-ons from this. For instance, without any care services, more people will end up with higher – and more expensive – needs faster than if they had got support earlier. It also puts more of a strain on carers, many of whom undertake the role without any financial support, or just for the Carers Allowance, which is still only £53.90 a week.
Not only this but services such as day care and meals on wheels, which are often vital lifelines, will also be cut back on.
I apologise if this makes for grim reading – I take no pleasure in writing it – but I can only see hard times ahead for everyone associated with social care. I doubt I’m saying anything revelatory, either.
But, to end on a positive note, if there is one thing the sector is good at, it is being resourceful. Social services, charities, third sector organisations and carers will always find ways to provide services that make a difference. This won’t stop because of local authority cuts.