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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
Social services budget warning
Elderly care
Elderly care is "under-funded"
A lack of funds is threatening to compromise the quality of care offered to older people and other vulnerable groups, social services directors have warned.

A report by the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) says that the funding of care is a "growing cause for concern".

The ADSS carried out a comprehensive survey of social services finance. Some 138 out of 150 local authorities provided information.

It found that social services budgets were over-spent by 183 million in the financial year 2000-01. Three-quarters of local authorities went into the red.

Council tax

Forcing social care managers and staff to make do and mend in this way is no substitute for a carefully thought out policy

Moira Gibb
Local authorities are being forced to step in to cover the shortfall in central government funding with money raised from the council tax.

And 54% predicted an even worse position in the current financial year.

ADSS President Moira Gibb said: "Forcing social care managers and staff to make do and mend in this way is no substitute for a carefully thought out policy on the funding of social care."

Mrs Gibb acknowledged that central government had responded to some of the pressures which have been building up within the care system by providing some extra funding.

But she added that government support has come nowhere near meeting the strains inflicted on social services departments by rising levels of demand coupled with the increased costs of providing residential and nursing home care.

She said the problem has been exacerbated by new statutory duties foisted upon local authorities.

Recruitment concerns

Mrs Gibb said directors throughout the country were reporting increased concerns about the current state of the employment market and their ability to recruit and retain care workers.

Social care needs secure, consistent, higher levels of funding

Brian Parrott
In addition, the growing shortages of places for older people in residential and nursing homes was leading to spiralling increases in costs.

She said: "Local government is `getting by' in social care by budgeting to spend above the level the government believes we should be spending at the standard spending assessment - overall to the tune of some 1 billion.

"This is being accompanied by restricting services to the most needy. The pressures, however, on users, carers and staff alike are considerable."

The survey found that social services departments are increasingly relying on a mix of short term, non recurrent funding, and specific grants.

Patch and mend

However, the ADSS says this simply encourages a "patch and mend" approach to problems - in particular those which ensure safe and speedy discharge of people from hospitals.

Brian Parrott, ADSS Resource Committee chair said: "They breed reactive, short term responses, rather than longer term proactive strategies based on secure funding.

"Social care needs secure, consistent, higher levels of funding to support a more strategic approach to promoting independence, while supporting the most vulnerable people.

"The 'patch and mend' approach to these pressures, together with the underlying underfunding particularly in children's services, is a very real and growing cause for concern.

The Independent Healthcare Association (IHA) welcomed the report's admission that independent care homes had been under-funded by social services departments for years.

See also:

17 Jul 00 | Health
Social services 'overstretched'
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