Care cuts ‘Will cost extra not save cash’

CAMPAIGNERS HAVE said planned council cuts to funding of carers’ allowances in Southwark could in fact raise costs – not save them.

Some of the borough’s neediest residents face losing their carer allowance, as part of a proposal by Southwark Council to help plug a £35 million central government funding gap.

However, Brenda Bond, of Age Concern Southwark and Lambeth, has said the changes may not have the desired effect and that the council could be “confusing cost minimisation with cost effectiveness.”

The proposal, to be submitted to a council executive meeting next week, would see the minimum level at which anyone in Southwark could receive adult care assistance raised from the current ‘moderate’ level to ‘significant’.

The change comes as a result of cuts to Southwark Council’s budget which have forced them to make a £10 million saving across the adult social care department over three years.

As many as 1,000 residents could be affected, with the elderly and physically disabled most at risk of losing funding for their carers.

“Nobody wants to do this,” said Rod Craig, director of client group commissioning for Southwark Council. “It is being done with a heavy heart.

“The decision to go out to consultation is because of the situation the council is in. A ten per cent reduction (in the budget) is big. Savings have to be made.”

Despite the need for cuts, the council’s plans have been criticised in some quarters for not considering the impact they will have on other services.

“Losing access to services at moderate levels of need is likely to increase costs in the near future,” said Bond, in her response to the council’s consultation exercise.

“There is a real risk of confusing cost minimisation with cost effectiveness… We would argue that robust evidence exists which demonstrates that raising eligibility criteria will very rapidly increase costs, rather than create savings.”

One of the concerns is that the removal of the provision of services to those with low level needs would mean extra strain being taken up by ‘preventative services’, with more money spent on ensuring that elderly people in particular can maintain a degree of independence.

The council stressed that given the hard choice of saving money by either changing the eligibility criteria or by cutting the preventative or ‘safety net’ services, it was felt more important to retain the latter.

The council has also pledged to re-assess all people currently rated as ‘moderate’ and expects that as many as half of these to be reclassified as ‘significant’.

“It is not an exact science,” added Craig. “People will be anxious about this and we need to ensure they have the highest quality of re-assessment.”