A meticulous investigation into the social care services for vulnerable residents in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire – Social Care: from Crisis to Catastrophe – has been published by the Cambridge Commons group.
It concludes that the crisis in social care in Cambridgeshire has become a catastrophe “to which no end is in sight”.
The author, David Plank, a respected former local government chief executive and director of social services, demonstrates that the recent warning by Andrea Sutcliffe, the nation’s chief inspector of adult social care, that the social care sector is broken, doesn’t tell the full story.
His review of Cambridgeshire County Council’s spending on social care from 2013 to 2020 shows that escalating government cuts in its funding to the authority are imposing devastating cash limits and “savings” on care services not only for older people, but for children, the disabled and other vulnerable groups as well.
Drawing on the findings of a National Audit Office report, he concludes that this is happening not just in Cambridgeshire but across England as a whole.
Nationally, the National Audit Office (NAO) has identified a real terms reduction of 37% in central government’s funding of English local authorities since 2010. This is a reduction of one quarter in local authorities’ total income.
As the NAO acknowledges, most local authorities have sought to protect social care. But the funding cut is so great that this became impossible some years ago.
David Plank says: “The effects of the cuts in Cambridgeshire are devastating.
“Older people in residential care and at home are having their incontinence pads changed less frequently and are at increased risk of distressing incontinence; adults with learning disabilities receive crisis care only and are less able to live independently; people with mental ill-health have greater difficulty getting a much needed place in residential care; children in care are at greater risk of abuse, mental health issues, homelessness and prison; even support to disabled children and their families has been reduced; and huge strain is being placed on the army of informal carers upon who we rely most to care for these people.
“Many are on low incomes, in poor living conditions and harmed by benefits reductions.
“This is all happening at a time when the number of people needing care is going up rapidly and more resources are urgently required.
“Instead resources locally and nationally are being cut and cut again. This is the hidden side of the austerity programme.
“Are we really to believe that, of all people, our most vulnerable fellow citizens must bear the brunt of this? No, if we really are all in it together, the government will right this wrong now. It has the opportunity to do so in this November’s Spending Review announcement.”