Norfolk social care 'is not keeping pace with demand'

Protest outside Norfolk County Hall
Image caption About 400 people gathered outside County Hall in February to protest against council spending cuts.

Social care budgets in Norfolk have increased for the current financial year, but there are fears they are not keeping pace with demand.

The county's spending on adults and children is up by an estimated 12.5% from £315.3m in 2010/11 to £354.8m this year, a BBC survey suggests.

Norfolk County Council is trying to make total savings of £155m by 2014.

It said while care budgets were up to reflect increased demand, it had still had to cut some of those services.

The Unthank Centre in Norwich, which provides therapeutic support for children aged up to 12, is due to shut at the end of May.

Rescue operation

The centre's services will instead be provided out of different centres across the county.

Shirley Jordan, one of the co-ordinators of a campaign to keep it open, said: "It's been such a rescue operation for some children who have had the most awful times of their lives.

"It's very short-sighted of Norfolk County Council to close a service like this."

Cathy Kenney, manager of the centre, said five team members being made redundant were setting up their own service to continue their support work.

"We're feeling devastated that the service is going. We feel it's really short-sighted, but the evidence is people are wanting to use us," she said.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP), said the council's decision to cut the Sensory Support Service by 50% was having a huge impact.

"We know there are people with sensory support needs who relied on that service for their independence," he said.

Demographic pressures

Mr Harrison was among 40 people who travelled from Norfolk on Wednesday to take part in the Hardest Hit March against cuts to benefits and services for disabled people, and addressed a crowd of thousands.

A Norfolk County Council spokeswoman said there was good evidence for Norfolk's demographic pressures and they had been anticipated.

She said the population was, on average, older than most other areas with a particular increase in the number of people aged 75 and over.

There was also an increase in the complexity of needs presented to social care services, and in particular an increase in dementia, coupled with a high level of income deprivation affecting older people.

"There are significant financial pressures arising from greater numbers of older people requiring services," she said.

"Over the next three years these pressures amount to £7.6m. In addition, there is a greater demand pressure from increases in the numbers of other service user groups.

"The combined growth in the number of people with physical disabilities, mental health problems and learning difficulties is currently estimated at £24m over three years."

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