Elderly and vulnerable to suffer in latest £800m cuts

  • @NigelpMorris

Services for the elderly and disabled face a fresh round of cuts because of a new £800m squeeze on social care budgets over the next year, it was disclosed last night.

The extra savings will bring to more than £2.6bn the amount of cash that has been trimmed from care spending by town halls at a time when demographic pressures are rapidly growing.

Council leaders warned that the moves would lead to vulnerable people losing basic help with washing and getting out of bed, as well as meals-on-wheels services.

The figures will cast doubt on plans being announced in the Queen's Speech today by the Coalition Government to overhaul the care system and to boost help for carers.

Some pressure has been eased by the transfer of money from the National Health Service to councils' social care budgets.

But a survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services forecast that councils will still need to cut care spending by £800m in the year to April 2014. This is on top of savings of £1.8bn since 2012, when austerity measures began to bite.

The association warned that the savings could not all be achieved by increasing efficiency, but would affect the quality of support given to many elderly and vulnerable people.

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

The survey found 13 per cent of the planned spending cuts - equivalent to £104m - would result in the direct withdrawal of services.

When asked which areas had been affected to date, 30 per cent of social services directors said fewer people were able to access services, while nearly half said care providers were facing financial problems.

Mrs Keene warned: “It is absolutely clear that all the ingenuity and skill we have brought to cushioning vulnerable people as far as possible from the effects of the economic circumstances cannot be stretched any further.”

The Local Government Association said: “The stark reality is that if such vast sums of money continue to be taken out of the care system it could be in very real danger of collapse.

”The combined long term pressures of a rapidly ageing population, increasing costs and a 33 per cent cut to local government budgets means that we need an urgent injection of money to meet rising demand in the short term.“

A Department of Health spokesman responded: ”We have already seen examples of local authorities redesigning services to find more efficient ways of working.

“Many local authorities are innovating and achieving much greater integration between health and care services, thereby improving care for people and optimising use of resources available.”