Leicester

Leicestershire County Council's social care cuts pledge

Services for the most vulnerable in Leicestershire will be maintained despite county council budget cuts, the authority has said.

A BBC survey of English councils suggests social care funding is being cut by nearly 10% from £184m in 2010/11 to an estimated £167m in 2011/12.

Officials said they had to save £79m in the next four years and spending was being focused where needed.

But a union and a care group said the cuts were causing serious problems.

Big Society

The authority insisted tough decisions - including cutting 1,000 posts - had to be made after grants from central government were reduced.

But it claimed £57m in efficiency savings and £5.5m from reserves had limited the impact on front-line services.

The council has set aside £850,000 for Big Society initiatives, but critics have pointed out it also is cutting more than £5m of grants to charities and voluntary organisations.

In addition, spending on youth services has been reduced by about £2m - half the entire budget.

However, the adult care budget has seen some of the most controversial changes, including £6.7m in efficiency savings and £1.7m in service reductions, as well as alterations to the eligibility criteria for services, and increasing charges in order to raise £2.1m.

In October, adult care costs for Leicestershire residents with savings of more than £23,000 rose from £8.60 per hour to £13 per hour.

Union fears

A council spokesman said it was facing "challenging" times.

"Helping people to be as independent as possible for as long as possible is key to both improving people's quality of life and making public services financially sustainable in the longer term.

"In order to help to achieve this the council is investing in a range of preventative services and making its care services more personalised.

"This includes investing more that £1m in new Telecare services and providing all services through a personal budget by 2013."

Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association, said: "Not only are councils reducing funding for care but they are raising eligibility criteria so people get help later.

'Struggle to pay'

"Because of this their conditions are worse, intervention comes only when the need is critical and therefore their quality of life is badly affected.

"And for the groups providing care - many are facing bankruptcy, and others do not have the money to invest in the organisation or training the staff."

Ravi Subramanian, regional organiser for Unison, said: "As well as the cuts they have hiked up charges for day care centres and home care, which a lot of people will struggle to pay.

"What they are trying to do is rather than withdraw the services from people, which looks bad, they are trying to get people to withdraw themselves.

"In a year or two they will begin to shut these services, saying that no-one is using them."

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