Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Social care funding outlook 'bleak'

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services plans to save 800 million pounds in the next 12 months
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services plans to save 800 million pounds in the next 12 months

The "already bleak outlook" for social care funding is expected to become "even bleaker", according to a survey on social care budgets.

Carried out by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the survey shows the association plans to save £800 million in the next 12 months - resulting in a shortfall in services for older people and people with disabilities.

Between 2011 and 2014, £2.68 billion will have been removed from the adult social care budget, ADASS said.

This decrease in spending, or what ADASS describes as a "saving", comes about by "providing different, more cost effective packages of care, or reduced levels of care, to many elderly or disabled people", according to Sandie Keene, ADASS president.

Two trends indicated by the survey show that 13% of the planned reductions in spending - £104 million - will result in direct withdrawal of services. The survey was conducted in April of this year and 145 of the 152 top-tier social services authorities in England responded.

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

When asked which areas had been affected to date, 30% of directors said that fewer people can access services, and nearly 50% said that providers are facing financial difficulties. The survey said 86% of directors thought that the quality of life for services users had not been lowered, with 5% saying that it had.

Looking to the next two years, 55% of directors feel that the quality of life for users will not worsen, while almost 19% think it will. Some 50% of ADASS members think that fewer people will be able to access adult social care services in two years' time, 57% think providers will be facing greater financial difficulty and 42% anticipate more legal challenges.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We took the decision to prioritise adult social care and provide extra funding to help in maintaining access to services for the first time ever. We are also bringing in a cap on reasonable care costs to ensure everyone will get the care they need and end the unfairness of, and fear caused by, unlimited care costs. We have already seen examples of local authorities redesigning services to find more efficient ways of working."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that changes to the social care system need to be made quickly, saying the UK faces a "very big challenge" because of its ageing society. Mr Hunt told ITV's Daybreak: "There is a lot of pressure in the system. One of the things that we need to be a lot better at is joining up the health and social care system. Because what people feel is very often they are pushed from pillar to post."

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