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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Carers 'hit by NHS funding crisis'
Carer with an elderly man
Specialised and residential care is being cut back
There has been a warning that the NHS funding crisis is now having a knock-on effect on social care for the elderly and disabled.

BBC News has seen details of an unpublished survey which shows that 15 local authorities are now experiencing "significant problems" because of cutbacks in programmes they fund jointly with the health service.

The shortfall in these 15 authorities is calculated at 6.5 million.

The survey was conducted by the Local Government Association as part of evidence being prepared for the parliamentary health select committee.

Their report says the NHS cutbacks come on top of an existing 1.76 billion black-hole in funding for social services.

An investigation by the File on 4 programme into respite care shows that in order to make savings some councils are considering the closure of residential and day-care centres and have tightened the eligibility criteria which determine which families get support.

'No crisis'

John Dixon, from the Association of Directors of Social Services, told the programme that cuts by health authorities will add to the pressure his members are already experiencing.

"There are a couple of areas in the country where it is having a huge impact," he said.

Following the File on 4 investigation, a home which provides support for families in Lancashire, is to be kept open.
The Maplewood respite care home, was threatened with closure but Lancashire County Council has now told parents of children who go to the home, that they intended to continue its funding.
More than 30 families use the respite centre, to get a break from caring for children, many of whom have severe disabilities.
Parent and campaigner, Angela Murphy, said: "Everyone was so relieved when we got the letter. There was a real sense of jubilation.
"But our happiness is tinged with sadness because of all the other families who do not have the support they need".

"Specialised and residential respite care is being cut back and this really does have an effect because when carers are not getting the care they need then they are not able to carry on caring and the local authority will have to pick up the consequences."

Ivan Lewis, the government minister responsible for social care, said there were still areas where too many people were not getting the respite care they needed.

But he denied there was a crisis and said he did not accept the figure of a 1.76 billion shortfall in social services budgets.

"The reality is there is always going to have to be hard choices made in an area where we are spending more and more, year on year, on health and social care," he said.

"Of course at a local level people are going to have to make difficult choices.

"It's okay for people to demand more and more money...but there will always be finite resources."

Big pressures

Earlier this year, Alison Davies, from Marple, Stockport, and her 12-year-old disabled son, Ryan, made national headlines when they leapt to their deaths from the Humber Bridge.

Alison's sister, Julie Armand, told File on 4 that she wanted more details of what level of provision that had been made for them by Stockport Borough Council's social services department.

"I think it's extraordinary that somebody who had all these issues didn't get more recognition or help," she said.

"It's not about blame but there are definitely some answers somewhere. This doesn't happen without a reason. If there were things in place that were not followed up or actioned, those are mistakes to be learned from."

Stockport Council would not be interviewed for the programme. They said they were conducting a review of the case along with other agencies.

But in a statement they said councils throughout Britain were facing significant pressure on funding.

"In many cases it is support to families and preventative services that are facing the biggest pressures. This creates problems for disabled children and their families as services need to be flexible."

File on 4: BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 6 June at 2000 BST, and repeated on Sunday 11 June at 1700 BST. Or listen online - see links on the right hand side of this page.

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