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Experts warn care services still face cuts

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Social services experts have questioned the the extent to which chancellor George Osborne’s £2bn boost to care funding will deal with the pressure the sector faces.

The NHS has been told to plough funding rising to £1bn by 2014 into reablement and closer integration between health services and social care, while councils will get an extra £1bn in their Personal Social Services grant funding.

But directors and analysts fear the boost could be mitigated by other cuts and rising numbers of elderly people.

Kings Fund chief economist John Appleby said that while the NHS social care funding provided “a real opportunity” to improve service delivery, the cash allocated to councils would be vulnerable to service cuts other budgets were facing.

“With the ringfence on local authority grant funding having been removed, and local government funding slashed overall, it remains to be seen whether this translates into increased funding for social care services,” he said.

Richard Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said the measures to help social care funding were welcome, but had to be viewed against the “colossal challenge” posed by cuts to core local government grants.

He said the sector had predicted a £5.7bn shortfall in social care funding over the spending review period, and that as the largest area of “controllable spend” in most councils it would be difficult to protect current levels of funding.

“Councils spend significantly more on social care than the revenue support grant allocation,” he said.

“Given the challenges at a local level to make major reductions we are likely  to still see a funding gap over the four years, and bridging that gap is going to take a great deal of skill, innovation and fundamental reform to how we work, what we offer and the role of individual citizens and the contribution of communities.

“It is clear too that the ways in which the news sums will be distributed will significantly affect the amounts individual authorities will receive.”

Mr Jones, who is executive director of adult and community services at Lancashire CC, said it would not be until later this year that the ground-level picture for care funding became clearer.

Another director of adult social services, who did not want to be named, said they understood that the headline funding reductions that local government faced had already taken the additional cash for social care into account.

They added: “One worrying aspect for many local authorities is that the government say that they intend to move specific grants into the revenue support grant system. 

“We don’t know the details of this but this could have huge distributional consequences: Some local authorities gaining considerably to offset the 26% reduction and others losing considerably to increase the 26% reduction.”

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