The current 'hand to mouth' attitudes to financing care for older
people, and other vulnerable groups, is a cause of growing concern
the publication of one of the most comprehensive surveys of social
services finances ever undertaken (see LGCnet).
The survey, undertaken alongside the LGA and
the Societies of County and Municipal Treasurers, confirms the near-£200m
overspend predicted earlier this year, and shows that local
authorities are stepping in and covering the government shortfall with
monies raised from the council tax.
According to ADSS president Moira Gibb: 'Forcing social care managers
and staff to make do and mend in this way is no substitute for a
carefully thought out policy on the funding of social care.
'Directors of social service recognise and welcome central government's
response to some of the financial pressures which have been building up
within the care system - particularly for older people.' But she added
that government support has come nowhere near meeting the strains
inflicted on social services departments by:
- Rising levels of need in the community
- Rising levels of demand
- Rising costs in the residential and nursing homes markets
- The increasing number of unresourced statutory duties being laid on
local government's shoulders
Mrs Gibb added: 'Directors throughout the country are reporting
increased concerns about the current state of the employment market and
our ability to recruit and retain care workers. The growing shortages of
places for older people in residential and nursing homes is leading to
spiralling increases in costs.
'Local government is `getting by' in social care by budgeting to spend
above the level the government believes we should be spending at the
standard spending assessment - overall to the tune of some£1bn.
This is being accompanied by restricting services to the most needy. The
pressures, however, on users, carers and staff alike are considerable.'
The joint budget survey shows an increased use of short term, non
recurrent funding, and specific grants, encouraging a 'patch and mend'
approach to problems, in particular those which ensure safe and speedy
discharge of people from hospitals.
According to Brian Parrott, ADSS resource committee chair: 'They breed
reactive, short term responses, rather than longer term proactive
strategies based on secure funding.
'Social care needs secure, consistent, higher levels of funding to
support a more strategic approach to promoting independence, while
supporting the most vulnerable people. The 'patch and mend' approach to
these pressures, together with the underlying underfunding particularly
in children's services, is a very real and growing cause for concern.
It is, however, evident across a very significant number of local
authorities, regardless of region or type of authority.'