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Government spending watchdog warns of difficult times ahead for local authority spending on social care

View profile for Mike Pemberton
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In a report examining central government’s approach to local authority funding, the National Audit Office has highlighted today the increasing difficulty faced by local authorities, over the rest of the Government’s spending review period, in absorbing the reductions in their central government funding without reducing their services.

The spending watchdog recommends that the Department for Communities and Local Government work with other government departments to improve the evaluation of the impact of decisions on local authority finances and services.

Today’s press release states concludes that Local authorities have, so far, managed with reduced funding, but more are facing the challenge of avoiding financial difficulties while meeting their obligations.

There is evidence that they are reducing services, for example, in adult social care.

The NAO estimates that local authorities are planning to make £4.6 billion of savings by April 2013. It further estimates that they still need to find about half of the savings to be made before March 2015. At the same time, demand for high-cost services, such as adult and children’s social care, is increasing.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today: "Local authorities are facing the challenge of reducing spending while protecting the services they provide. So far, they have generally coped well, but central government funding support will continue to reduce and the impact on individual local authorities will vary.”

There is no doubt that providers of public sector care services – our councils and our social services teams - face enormous challenges in this economic climate.

The NAO statement that Local Authorities have “generally coped well” so far,  is a judgement on the overall economic performance of Council’s rather than being reflective of the experiences of many people we see on a day to day basis who are either paying more for their care, or receiving generally less care, or less quality of care etc.

The announcement here adds to a developing picture of the “time bomb” which some predict is ticking in respect of social care in England.

Help from Social Services is often difficult to access in the current cost-cutting climate.

David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association’s wellbeing board, has said: "Without fundamental reform and sufficient funding we risk losing the public's trust and confidence in our ability to do the best for people in later life.

We now need politicians to transcend political point-scoring and wake up to the ticking demographic time bomb this country is facing."

By community care advisor, Pete Donohue

Stephensons has a long history of expertise in the field of community care law and has experts in adult care provision, child care, and care funding matters.

We have been involved in a number of important cases in this field. Such services are a duty of the Authorities to provide to persons with eligible and assessed needs, such as the disabled, vulnerable children or the elderly.

Legal Aid may be available, or we have a competitive tariff of fixed fee options to assist people in legal matters in this field.

Our community care team is part of a larger public law and civil liberties Unit whose remit is to fight for the vulnerable, the underdog in their dealings with these large government bodies.