Local authorities have been accused of “burying their heads in the sand” over cuts to adult social care, after admitting that spending will fall by nearly £900 million this year.
A new report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) claims that over 85 per cent of the reduction will be due to “service re-design and efficiency”.
But another £77 million of savings will come through increased care charges paid by disabled and older people, and a further £113 million through councils cutting services.
The ADASS report shows that the total £890 million reduction in the adult social care budget for 2012-13 follows the £1 billion that was lost last year.
Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said the figures revealed the “stark reality for disabled people, carers and older people losing out on the frontline of austerity Britain”, with disabled and older people failing to receive the support they need to retain their dignity and independence.
DR UK said the “massive drop” in spending was coming despite rising demand for support, and warned that underfunding of essential care would only lead to longer-term costs for local authorities and the NHS.
Research suggests that charging fees for basic support leads to disabled people withdrawing from services, with the long-term costs of their care tripling when they later require much higher levels of support.
Sue Bott, DR UK’s director of development, said: “The ‘ostrich’ approach of councils, enforced by cuts from central government, of burying heads in the sand affects us all.
“Care matters to everyone and we need the most effective and efficient system, able to ensure needs are met and not ignored until the costs have tripled.”
Bott said the government must “act now to ensure adequate provision of social care and support for disabled people across the country”.
The survey also found that since last year, another six councils had tightened their eligibility criteria from “moderate” to “substantial”, making a total now of 83 per cent of councils, while three local authorities provide services only to those with “critical” needs.
Sarah Pickup, president of ADASS, said some councils had been forced to cut services to balance their budgets, although local authorities “continue to strive to protect front line services through re-designing services to focus on prevention and recovery and reducing ongoing costs, and by reviewing processes, services and contracts to ensure value for money”.
She said that it “could not be clearer that there is a desperate need for politicians from all parties quickly to find an answer to how we, as a nation, are going to adequately fund social care services in the future”.
A Department of Health (DH) spokesman said: “In 2010 the government recognised the pressure on the social care system and prioritised it by investing £7.2bn up to 2015.
“But we were clear that the money should not be used for business as usual – we challenged councils to increase productivity and spend the money more wisely.”
None of the new funding was ring-fenced, and it was announced in 2010 as chancellor George Osborne revealed cuts in total government funding of local councils of 26 per cent over the following four years.
The DH spokesman said: “The headline figure in this survey is not a cut. In fact it shows that councils are working hard to spend money in smarter ways to deliver care and support, and this year, they have got even better at doing that.”
He said the government’s long-awaited adult social care white paper would be published “quite soon but not in the next week or two”.