Article published: Tuesday, December 18th 2012
Cuts have left Manchester City Council struggling to plug a £5.8 million overspend in its Adults Services budget as needs rise across the city.
Costs are surging due to a rise in the number of people who need care for learning disabilities, a report to town hall chiefs has revealed. The number of people who require mental health care support shot up over the last year by 35 per cent.
The increasing need means the Adults, Health and Wellbeing directorate expects to fall £5,791m short of its cuts target, although it is still on track to implement £13.9m in cuts by the end of the 2012/13 financial year.
Overall the council is attempting to meet a £170m cuts target as a result of major government attacks on local authority funding and estimates it will end this financial year in March 2013 with a £921,000 overspend.
More cuts of up to £80 million are expected over the next two years, with the loss of between 700 and 900 more jobs. Whitehall will announce the outcome of its next local government finance settlement tomorrow, 19 December.
A council spokesperson told Mule that the overspend would be managed through a mixture of digging into reserve funds and “additional funding to reflect rising demographics”.
Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, a partnership between the council and the NHS which is the main provider of the council’s mental health services alongside commissioned voluntary groups, has encountered protest from unions and user groups against its attempts to cut £28 million over the next five years and scrap 38 front-line posts.
Vice-chair of patients’ group Manchester Users Network Alan Hartman claimed that the impact of cuts on mental health care had been “dreadful”, with care support time cut short, no more open wards available in the city and services in North Manchester difficult to access by telephone during the day.
“People are becoming more ill and need more support”, said Hartman, who argued that the government’s controversial incapacity assessments were heaping pressure on people with mental illnesses. “A lot of people wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for that organisation called Atos. People get assessed as fit for work and then crack”.
New “Fairer Charging” policies for adult services have also landed 4,449 people using social care with an average bill increase of £2,132 per year in a bid to save the town hall £1.8 million according to a report to councillors last March.
The council is also attempting to save £9.3 million through redefining its social care offer and expanding the use of “Reablement” whereby clients, including the elderly, are provided with short term intensive support in an attempt to reduce requirements for long term care in the future.
Free supplies of care equipment worth under £25 to non-Reablement clients have already ended, transport charges have been hiked from 40p to £1.40 and the council’s hot meals service has been scrapped.
Officers hope to push down costs by £600,000 next year through reassessments of clients through their revised care offer and say they will continue to “deflect need via the redefined offer and defer need via reablement”, though they add that their budget “remains under severe pressure”.
“It’s a false economy”
Executive Member for Adults, Health and Well Being Councillor Glynn Evans warned that more cuts could be considered, although the council wished to make use of preventative services to reduce demand. “The council is facing some tough decisions in light of the anticipated budget settlement”, he said.
“All areas of the council’s budget are currently being considered and the focus is on making efficiencies, doing things differently, management and back office costs.
“Current demand levels for services, population growth and predicted future demand are being taken into account. The City Council’s strategy is to invest in prevention and early help and continuing to protect vulnerable adults.”
A council spokesperson also said that welfare advice and benefit support was available to people struggling with the higher charges through the city’s Community Legal Advice Service, alongside other agencies which receive some funding from the local authority.
Hartman warned that people had been hit hard by the charge increases, arguing that people with mental illnesses often found it difficult to navigate their finances. “When you’ve got a mental illness you’re in a no-man’s land” he said, adding that he knew one woman who had fallen into £10,000 debt due to the charges.
“It’s a false economy”, he claimed, arguing that the changes would lead to greater need for care in the long term. “They’ll need to spend money to deal with the costs”.