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Care and health services future is bleak unless the government moves from austerity to investment

THE OUTLOOK for care provision and health services in the UK is bleak with Government cuts eating into resources despite rising need for support.

A recent report from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), found many councils across the country saying they would struggle to meet their legal duties to provide care while meeting demands to make savings.

Additional powers given to councils last year to access extra money for social care through the council tax system will raise only a fraction of the funds needed to cover spiralling costs.

This stark national picture is echoed in Reading, where the Council will struggle to cope with a significant shortfall in social care this year and in the years to come.

The previous chancellor was under the impression the adult social care precept would somehow sort care of the elderly and those with disabilities but it will not – it’s a drop in the ocean. The council is now having to make some incredibly tough decisions to enable us to continue to support older and vulnerable people.

People who need care in Reading should not be frightened or anxious because their essential support will continue, but the Council will have to increasingly focus care on those who have been assessed as needing services. We will also continue to lobby at a national level for a better deal for Reading residents.

The picture is equally bleak within public health. On 31st July 2015, the Government proposed its intention to make in-year savings of £200 million from the Public Health Grant across all local authorities, regardless of local deprivation levels. A £600,000 cut in Government funding for public health services in Reading has prompted a review of services.

The full impact of the cuts to health services, many of which offer early intervention, preventative and support services, is difficult to quantify in the short term but could prove highly detrimental to the longer term health and wellbeing across the borough. It is also feared the cuts will increase health inequalities and, inevitably, undermine efforts to keep pressure off the NHS through improving people’s health.

“It is inevitable that this level of Government cuts will have an impact on public health services in Reading, and on the people who use them. We are now having to make some tough decisions about where limited resources will have the most impact.

“Although the level of the Public Health grant across the country varies widely, the Government proposes to apply a flat rate cut to all councils irrespective of deprivation levels. This can only worsen health inequalities. Reading Labour has argued that local authorities in areas of low deprivation should take a larger proportion of the savings, but unfortunately that isn’t being taken into consideration.

To date, £65 million worth of savings have already been made across Reading Council since 2011. A further package of nearly £20 million is now being proposed to tackle an estimated £36.7million funding gap up to 2020 as a result of ongoing cuts in Government funding.

A few facts about Reading:  The number of residents has increased by 9% since 2001 to 159,200 people. This comprises around 63,000 households. The population is forecast to increase by a further 24% by 2050, to 193,056 residents. This growth, whilst welcomed, has an impact on Council services.

There has been an increase in the over 65s (about 8%) population and people are living longer with long terms health conditions. The over 65 population is expected to rise steadily in Reading, with a notable rise in the over 85 population. By 2020, the Council predicts that 25% of people who pay for their own care are likely to have run out of funds and will therefore be eligible to have their care paid for by the Council.

The ADASS press release can be read here:

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