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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 06:47 GMT
Cost of caring soars
elderly people in daycare centre
Elderly people are living longer put a drain on resources
The cost of looking after children and elderly people in Wales is rocketing, according to a new survey of social services departments.

Figures revealed exclusively to BBC Wales show that social services have overspent by 13m already this financial year.

It comes in the same week the Welsh Assembly Government ordered Welsh councils to spend 19.5m originally earmarked to help limit council tax increases on social care.

The assembly said the money was to go to ease bed-blocking and help get more elderly or infirm people who would otherwise be kept in hospital back out into the community and into their own homes.

Nearly 1bn is spent each year by the 22 local authorities in Wales on social services - caring for the country's young, old and disabled people.

This time last year, social services departments were 4m over budget, but now the survey by the Association of Directors of Social Services has found the joint deficit is three times that.

Councils are being forced to raid other departments for their balances, or alternatively carry forward debt to next year to make the books balance.

In some areas, children's services make more demands
Of the 20 local authorities which responded to the questionnaire, 14 said they were overspent.

Bridgend's Director of Social Services Tony Garthwaite said the figures prove the sector was inadequately funded.

"Social care is expensive to provide," he explained.

"People are living longer, and so they need to make more demands on social care.

"Equally, on the children's side of things, there are something like 1,000 more children being looked after by local authorities now than there were in 1999.

The survey found that the lion's share - nearly 12m - of the overspend had gone on children's services.

Caring for the growing elderly population in Wales had led to the remainder of the budget deficit.

A statement from the Welsh Assembly Government said it could not comment in detail until the report had been seen.

But it did recognise the pressures that local authorities social services departments faced, it said - which was why 19.5m extra money was announced earlier this week for social care.

"Social services is a vital frontline service which can lead to significant pressures on budgets.," the statement said.

"We are aware of this and have taken action by making a significant investment in this area," the statement said.

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