Mounting pressure on county budgets will affect the most vulnerable people in Cambridgeshire, warns watchdog group

PUBLISHED: 17:55 13 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:55 13 February 2018

Cllr Steve Count

Cllr Steve Count

Archant

Vulnerable people experiencing financial pressures will be most affected under proposed changes to care service charges, a local watchdog has warned.

The fear comes amid figures that show there is mounting pressure on county budgets, including referrals from Addenbrooke’s Hospital to social care, which has risen from 100 to 150 people a week in the last few months.

Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire. said: “The issue of adult social care will be one of the greatest challenges we face in our generation so it is right that the county council explore innovative new models to meet future demand.

“We are lucky to have highly skilled and dedicated staff in our local authorities and NHS providers who have agreed to work together to find new solutions.”

However, local group Healthwatch has raised concerns over the suggested changes to the council’s fairer contributions policy and it is urging people to contact the county council to tell them of their fears.

A consultation is open until February 23 and a decision will be made in March 2018.

A Healthwatch spokesman said: “We are concerned that the impact of these changes will fall most heavily on people who have already had their disability benefits reduced and who are the most vulnerable in our community.

“Cambridgeshire County Council is responsible for organising care and support for adults with care needs that meet a certain level.

“Care and support services are not free. Most people have to pay something towards their own care and some will have to pay for all of the costs.

“The fairer contributions policy sets out when and how much a person should pay for social care support.

“The council is proposing to change these levels and to make some other changes to the charges it makes.”

Councillor Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, has welcomed an additional £1.6m announced by the government in its final local Government settlement for Cambridgeshire.

He said: “While welcoming this additional government grant allocation, it is once again allocated on the existing formula.

“Two neighbouring counties with populations of just 15 per cent more than us received 30 per cent more in this one off grant, and Lambeth, received 30 per cent more per head of population.

“This, clearly demonstrates the funding inequalities we’ve been highlighting and how we need to continue to raise this issue at the very highest level.”

The final settlement for 2018/19 includes additional one-year allocations for the county of just over £185k to support unaccompanied asylum seeking children and £1.452m for adult social care, alongside an expectation that ministers “will see councils use this to build on their progress so far in supporting sustainable local care markets”.

The additional funding will be used to support a major extension of the council’s re-ablement service and in buying more interim beds in residential and nursing homes to support older people who need to be discharged from hospital.

The cost of supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children in 2017/18 has risen due to the number needing support after 18 years old.

There has been considerable attention given this year to the pressures faced by the NHS, particularly acute hospitals, and social care, Cllr Count said.

So far in 2017/18 Cambridgeshire County Council has had additional winter pressures amounting to some £1.5m and this is rising, with pressure unlikely to reduce.

Cllr Count said: “We are already using money from our general reserves to cope with these pressures which are unrelenting, and are certainly likely to reoccur in future years – which means a one year grant is helpful but does not solve our issues.

“We are also trialling new and innovative ways of supporting older people safely and with dignity through such projects as our Neighbourhood Cares pilots in Soham and St Ives and in our current campaign to recruit 100 more re-ablement workers to add to our existing team of 200.”

• Healthwatch is calling for local people to respond to the consultation. Visit the council’s website, call the council on 0330 355 1285 or write to Fairer Contributions Policy Consultation, County Council, Box No: SH1217, Shire Hall, Cambridge CB3 0AP.

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