Norfolk County Council bosses warning over pressure on social care from ageing population

The NCAN welfare reform conference at the Kings Centre. Harold Bodmer, director of community service

The NCAN welfare reform conference at the Kings Centre. Harold Bodmer, director of community services, Norfolk County Council. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

Norfolk is facing a 'significant challenge' because an ageing population is heaping pressure on social services at a time when the money to tackle the problem is shrinking, council bosses have warned.

Bosses at Norfolk County Council said the number of people contacting the council with a social care need has soared from 34,200 to 64,000 in the past five years - and is only going to increase.

And union leaders have warned that, following the problems revealed in Norfolk County Council's children's services department, further cuts in budgets will mean cracks could next appear in services for vulnerable adults.

While council bosses stressed the disappearance of a number of specific grants meant it was difficult to compare budgets year-by-year, the budget for adult social care has gone from £235m in 2010/11 to £220.9m in 2011/12 to £213.9m in 2012/13.

A council spokesman said: 'Probably the single most important driver of demand is the increasing complexity of the care we have to commission and provide.

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'Norfolk has an ageing population - we expect the number of people aged 85 to increase by 77pc by 2026, with similar increases in numbers of people with dementia.

'This means that when people do require our care they require a lot of care and a wider range of services.

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'Our figures show that the number of people requiring more than 10 hours home care a week has gone up from 1,018 in 2009/10 to 1,410 in 2012/13 - an increase of 38pc in four years.'

The council said it was also seeing a need for much more 'intense' care, with increased numbers of people receiving specialist dementia care and other high dependency care.

Harold Bodmer, director of community services at Norfolk County Council, said: 'The adult social care sector is facing significant challenges, nationally and in Norfolk. We have an ageing population and an increasing number of people living with dementia, so demand for social care support is set to increase.

'Coupled with this, local government budgets are shrinking and the way social care support is provided is being reviewed and modernised at a national level, so there is a lot for us and other care providers in the independent and voluntary sector to adjust to.

'We have made a lot of changes over the past couple of years to meet these challenges, including reducing costs and improving care by becoming more integrated with our health partners, supporting communities and the independent sector to provide services and activities that will help people maintain their independence, and helping to create more places in specialist dementia care homes and housing with care schemes.

'We will need to keep reviewing the way we work but we'll keep talking and, more importantly, listening to the people we support, their relatives and other care providers and partners about their concerns and ideas, and try to find solutions that work for everyone wherever possible.'

Following this month's elections, no party is in overall control at Norfolk County Council and the council has yet to decide who will govern the authority.

A meeting will take place this Friday to try to resolve that, but in the past few months the authority's children's services department has twice been criticised by watchdog Ofsted.

The council was told it must improve how it protects vulnerable children and must get a better grip on schools which are not performing as well as they should.

And leaders from the Norfolk County Council branch of trade UNISON, said the children's services problems were an inevitable result of the government squeeze on how it funds local councils - and warned problems could now be exposed in adult social services.

Jonathan Dunning, UNISON's branch secretary at County Hall, said: 'These are troubled times for all local authorities. Putting aside who is going to run the council, we have had children's services budgets which have been squeezed over the past few years.

'If the standard of service is impacted by that then problems are going to be unavoidable. If you cut services, then you are going to get a kickback.

'We are going through the same thing now with adult social services. Adult social care is now going through its share of the cuts, so I fear we are going to see the same sort of problems happening there.

'If anything that is going to be worse. With children's services the demand is relatively constant, but in adult social services the demand will only increase, yet the money is going down.

'We are seeing the inevitable impact on services of the coalition government's cuts on the public sector front-line.'

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