England

Adult social care spend falls at Surrey County Council

Elderly man's hands
Image caption BBC research has shown that elsewhere in the south, budgets are rising by an average of 2.7%

Spending on adult social care in Surrey has fallen while councils across the south of England have increased theirs.

The adult social care budget at Surrey County Council has fallen from £326.3m in 2010-11 to £324.9m in 2011-12.

BBC research has shown that elsewhere in the South, budgets are being increased by an average of 2.7%.

Last year, adult services saw £32m efficiency savings, 8.5% of the gross budget, and this year will see £28.2m efficiency savings, 7.5% of the budget.

Sarah Mitchell, strategic director of adult services, said the council had been absolutely clear that it wanted to protect the most vulnerable in Surrey.

'Bottom line' impact

She said efficiency savings had come from reorganising staffing, holding vacancies, reducing absence levels, and no redundancies had been made.

Ms Mitchell also said changes were being made not only in response to budget cuts, but also in response to findings from the Department of Health which said the county had too many people in residential care, and SCC was paying too much for that care.

Alan Klyne, spokesman for the public sector union Unison, said: "Our members are telling us that they are very uncertain how these plans are going to work out in practice."

He said social care workers dealt with very vulnerable people including those with physical disabilities, MS, strokes, cancer, learning difficulties, mental health problems, and dementia.

Mr Klyne said: "Every day of the week the phone is ringing in our offices and staff go out and try to assist people.

"It's really far too soon to tell the impact of these efficiency savings because they're just rolling out in Surrey literally as we speak."

Erica Lockhart, chief executive of Surrey Care Association, said it was in "everyone's interests" to have a strong care market in Surrey.

She said: "I think in the short-term, providers are committed to keeping quality - yes they are business people but actually they care about the people that they are providing a service to."

But she added the impact this year would be on the "bottom line".

She said workers were suffering because they were already on a basic minimum wage with 0% increases, and some had seen their holidays cut.

Ms Lockhart added: "There is a tightening this year. My more serious worry is how we manage that in the longer term."

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