Warning of charges for social services

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THE financial burden of the Government's proposed changes to community care may force local authorities to make additional charges for services such as home help and meals on wheels, the Association of Directors of Social Services warned yesterday.

In a survey conducted by the association it was reported that 69 of the 84 authorities that responded were likely to cut spending on social services when budgets are finalised this April.

Seven anticipated no additional spending; only eight saw their social services budget increasing.

Peter Smallridge, president of the association, said the news was 'extremely gloomy'. Cuts in 'crucial' areas of the social services budget could mean the closure of homes and day centres for elderly and mentally handicapped people, and a reduction in the number of inspection staff monitoring standards in homes.

The survey was dismissed by Tim Yeo, Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, as 'a record of pessimistic expectations rather than a realistic assessment of resources'.

He said the Government's assessment of the total amount to be spent on personal social services in 1993-94 was pounds 5.5bn - a rise of 15 per cent over this year 'at a time when the financial climate is difficult'.

He said it was 'up to councils to sort out their priorities and use resources efficiently and effectively to ensure high-quality social services are delivered'.