Councils fear budget cuts will hit care services for elderly

More than half of local authorities in England fear budget pressures will hit care services which help elderly people and adults with disabilities to live at home, according to a survey.

The poll found 86 out of 87 councils were currently investing in services to help people live independently for longer. But 46 out of 87 were concerned about funding these intervention services in the future, the research showed.

A total of 58 per cent of all of the councils in England replied to the questionnaire commissioned by BBC Local Radio for Living Longer, a special week of local programming.

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Charity director at Age UK Michelle Mitchell said thousands of frail and vulnerable people relied on home care services.

She said: "Even seemingly modest cuts could see a quarter of a million older people lose the essential home-based care and support they rely on.

"It's down to each local authority to protect the most vulnerable and frail in their community by promising to preserve local care funding and spend every penny of the 2bn earmarked by the Treasury on social care."

More than one-in-three councils said they will not spend more money in real terms on services for older people next year, in spite of Chancellor George Osborne promising an extra 2bn for social care by 2014/15.

Minister for care services Paul Burstow claimed the extra money would mean no council had to cut social care services.

"We are investing in re-ablement services that get people back on their feet after a stay in hospital.

"By using telecare and developing preventative services, councils can cut their costs, reduce pressure on the NHS and improve the quality of life of their residents."

But the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) warned care services faced a "tough" future. President of Adass Richard Jones said: "Since adult social care can comprise anything up to 50 per cent of councils' controllable budgets, protecting social care services will be very challenging in face of a 28 per cent reduction in local authority funding from government.

"We will have to make some very tough decisions given the overall level of resource that will be available.

"Inevitably people will have to pay more towards the care they receive." Of the 87 councils surveyed, 11 said they would probably change the eligibility criteria for adult social care services while 34 were not sure.