Social Care is already being hit and the Autumn Statement will make things worse
Two reports published today by the NHS Information Centre show that social care in England is already starting to feel the effect of the cuts. Personal Social Services Expenditure and Unit Costs reveals that, between 2009/10 and 2010/11, there was a 2% real terms decrease in spending on adult social services by local authorities. Secondly, Community Care Statistics: Social Services Activity reports a fall of 4% in the numbers receiving nursing care, a 2% fall in the number of adults receiving residential care, an 8% fall in the numbers receiving community-based services though there was a substantial increase in the numbers receiving self-directed support or direct payments. There was a 3% fall in the number of carers receiving an assessment, a 2% fall in the numbers receiving a service and a 9% fall in the numbers receiving a carer-specific service.
Now, it has to be said that, when the comparison is with 2005/6, not 2009/10, there are substantial increases. The fall over the last year could be a blip, even if it isn’t there could be positive reasons for it – fewer people needing help, for instance. But there is a chilling section that puts this in another light:
Feedback from councils suggests that the fall this year is due to a number of reasons including data cleaning, dealing with more service users at the first point of contact, raising the level of need at which people become eligible for council funded services and stopping some types of services altogether. This will help to explain reductions in packages of care mentioned elsewhere in this and the following sections. These explanations may also help to explain the reduction in the number of reviews, and the switch from referrals resulting in further assessment and commissioning of a service to being dealt with solely at the point of contact mentioned in the previous section.
This is almost certainly due to the response of local authorities to the cuts that were announced in last year’s Spending Review. As the Local Government Association’s briefing on the Autumn Statement puts it, “councils have had their funding cut by 28% against an average cut across Whitehall of 8.3%.” The implications of yesterday’s announcements for councils are still quite vague but the LGA notes that Total Managed Expenditure is due to fall by 0.9% a year in real terms and that this will be on top of the 2010 Spending Review cuts.
Community Care points out that this means an extra £0.5 billion a year cut from central government support for councils and further cuts to social care services are inevitable. As the magazine goes on to point out, this must “raise further doubts” about whether the government will go ahead with Andrew Dilnot’s proposals for funding social care. At our seminar on Monday, Andrew Dilnot made a very strong case for his proposals – even those of us who would like to go a lot further could accept them as a good starting point. Now it looks even less likely that the government – which, after all, commissioned the Dilnot report in the first place – will be willing to come up with the necessary cash.