POLITICIANS have been warned swingeing social care cutbacks set to be enforced across England’s largest county are a short-term fix which could lead to escalating costs with increasing hospital admissions as patients’ health deteriorates.
A multi-million pound package of cuts is being drawn up by North Yorkshire County Council after it emerged its spending will have been slashed by a third once the Government’s austerity measures are fully realised.
Council leader John Weighell has admitted that key front-line services which have up until now been largely protected will be affected by the next round of cuts.
Among the most contentious proposals which are due to go out to public consultation in September are plans to withdraw social care support for more than 1,000 people across North Yorkshire.
Care professionals in both the private and voluntary sectors have urged residents in the county to petition the council in a bid to ensure social care services are preserved.
Concerns are growing about the long-term effects of the dramatic restructuring of care provision, amid predictions more patients will end up needing to be admitted to hospital in the long term.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) for York and North Yorkshire, which represents professionals in the private and voluntary sectors, is also calling on the Government to ensure there is an adequate level of funding available for care services nationally.
The ICG’s chairman, Mike Padgham, said: “If the council presses ahead with this decision to alter its care provision criteria, fewer and fewer people will be able to have the care they need and we cannot stand by and let that happen.
“This might save money in the short term but cost much more in the long term. Evidence suggests that providing people with the care they need helps prolong their health and independence.
“If you deny that care research shows that people’s health deteriorates and they need more costly care, often through admission to hospitals, later on.
“We need to let our local councillors know that social care provides vital services for older and vulnerable people in our local communities and is not the place to come to make budget cuts.
“Social care has no more fat to cut and further cutbacks would mean that some of the most vulnerable people in the county would face hardship.
“At the same time, we know local authorities are under pressure and the Government should be funding social care better in the first place so that cuts like this don’t have to be made.”
The true scale of the financial crisis facing the county council was revealed earlier this month after senior finance officers admitted the situation is even worse than they had predicted just six months ago.
The cash-starved authority is faced with having to enforce cuts totalling nearly £160m by 2018/19 – almost a third less than the overall revenue budget it had only eight years previously.
The latest round of measures to make annual savings of £5.9m to help balance budgets include the withdrawal of social care support for more than 1,000 people.
A council spokesman stressed that the authority is among a handful nationally which provides social care to people with “moderate” needs – 87 per cent of authorities intervene only when needs are assessed as “substantial”.
The plans would see the council join the majority of authorities in offering services to people with “substantial” needs or higher – a move that would affect up to 1,200 people.
The council spokesman said: “All the measures outlined at the full meeting of the council are at the moment only proposals, put forward for public consultation.
“People around North Yorkshire will be given the opportunity to make their views known during the consultation process.”