‘The cuts will make things worse but we’ve got no choice’

Councillor Geoff Driver
Councillor Geoff Driver

County Hall bosses say they fear there may be no alternative to cutting cash to support residents who need support.

Personal budgets were introduced nationally in 2008 to enable individuals needing social care support to have more control over the way they receive that support and how their care funding is spent.

Councillor Tony Martin

Councillor Tony Martin

The money can be spent on aspects of social care including therapists, transport, personal assistants, housing adaptations and respite services.

However, faced with hundreds of millions of pounds being axed from Government grants, Lancashire County Council – which covers Fydle and Wyre –is reviewing how it calculates personal budgets for those eligible for social care.

It is predicted 1,093 people would be allocated a lower budget. These include 347 with learning disabilities, 350 elderly, 369 with physical disabilities as well as 27 with mental health needs.

It was first thought that the new RAS (Resource Allocation System) would save the council a further £8.8m.

We’re faced with £600m Government cuts between 2013 and 2020

County Coun Tony Martin

But an updated risk assessment has concluded these cuts are not deliverable, instead, it is believed savings of £4.3m can be made in both 2016/17 and 2017/18.

The report will now go to County Coun Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services for a decision. He acknowledged forthcoming cuts “would make things worse for a substantial number of people.”

But he said there was no alternative given the cuts and demand the council faces, adding: “The cost of adult social care is well over 70 per cent of the budget now and rapidly rising to become over 100% by 2020. It will mean we just can’t afford to do anything other than look after our most vulnerable people.”

He said the “Lancashire offer” had been regarded as a generous offer nationally until now, adding: “We’re faced with £600m Government cuts between 2013 and 2020.”

The council says it must now save £65m over the next two years because of cuts and increased demand for key services

County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the Conservative opposition on the council, said his members would not support the proposal and added: “It’s like a lot of the savings they are proposing. They’ll have a significant impact on some very vulnerable people.”

Referring to the council spending £6.6m on consultants to transform its adult social care service, he said: “We just wonder if they are making the right savings in the right areas and whether they are making the best of the resources they do have available to them.”

The report says the new version of the RAS was developed following implementation of the April 2015 Care Act and the county council’s need to make financial savings.

It continued: “Once adopted the RAS will be Care Act compliant and provide a basis for reviewing existing or proposed levels of personal budgets to realise savings where safe and reasonable.”

Professor Corinne May-Chahal, professor of applied social science at Lancaster University, said the system was stretched at “every single point”.

She said: “The problem is there’s no holistic vision.

“Cuts are fragmented, they are targeted towards specific areas of services and there’s no overall co-ordinated, integrated vision for adult services.

“The whole issue is the more individualised services become, the less co-ordinated they are.

“If the council are cutting services, they are the people that manage to co-ordinate services on behalf of individuals. As soon as that goes, they are vulnerable to all kinds of difficulties.

“The system is stretched at every single point.

“The health service is stretched, social care services are stretched, and personalised budgets are stretched. So if money is cut in one area and people end up in A&E because they can’t sufficiently care for themselves or afford the care they need, A&E services are also stretched to the absolute limit.

“We’ve got to work out how to put all this back together.”