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MPs’ survey provides new evidence of care cuts

(25 January 2012)

Nearly two-thirds of local authorities in England have reduced their spending on support in the community for disabled and older people, according to a survey commissioned by an influential Parliamentary committee.

The survey, carried out for the House of Commons Select Committee on Health as part of its review of public spending in health and social care, found budgets for community support fell by nearly 10 per cent this year, compared with 2010-11.

At the same time, charges for users of care services were set to rise in 2011-12 from 13 per cent to 13.5 per cent of the total social care budget.

Across the 67 councils that responded to the survey, social care budgets fell by an average of 1.1 per cent between 2010/11 and 2011/12.

The report concludes that – despite “government assurances” – local authorities are “having to raise eligibility criteria in order to maintain social care services to those in greatest need”.

It adds: “The overall picture of social care is of a service that is continuing to function by restricting eligibility, by making greater savings on other local authority functions and by forcing down the price it pays to contractors for services.”

It concludes that total spending on social care fell by at least 1.5 per cent in 2011-12, although a survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services suggested spending on adult social care had fallen by 6.8 per cent.

The committee said it hoped that the government’s response to the Dilnot Commission’s proposals on the funding of long-term care and support, due this spring, would “set out how a sustainably funded system will continue into the future”.

But the report adds: “The challenge for local authorities and the government is to continue to provide a meaningful service until a new system is in place.”

Responding to the committee’s report, Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said councils received enough government funding to “maintain the current levels of access and eligibility”, but “need to work smarter with their health professional colleagues to bring integrated services closer to people’s homes in the community”.

He added: “They need to look at how investing in innovative technology and ways of working, like telehealth and reablement, can give patients better results closer to home and free up more money for frontline services.”

He said the government would set out its plans for reforming adult social care in the spring.

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