Norfolk County Council’s social care cuts will hit elderly and disabled

Norfolk County Council's proposed social care spending cuts will hit the most vulnerable, including

Norfolk County Council's proposed social care spending cuts will hit the most vulnerable, including the elderly. - Credit: PA

Some of the most vulnerable people in Norfolk will be hit because of proposals to save £56m in what the county council spends on social care, leaders have acknowledged.

But they insist Norfolk County Council has to make ends meet, even if that means some 15,000 people who get care from the council have to see changes to services.

Social care changes are among some of the most major shake-ups proposed in the county council's consultation to save £140m over the next four years.

Among controversial proposals are suggestions that £12m could be saved over the next three years by limiting what people can spend personal budgets on.

Personal budgets were introduced in a blaze of publicity in 2008. They are sums of money allocated to people eligible for social care after an assessment of their needs.

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At the time, the county council hailed the personal budgets, introduced at a time when the council scaled back the day services it provided, as a way to give people more choice on the sort of care they got.

Instead, people were encouraged to use the budgets on things which improved their wellbeing, which included the likes of head massage and trips to the cinema.

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But the council is now proposing to allocate less money for those sort of activities – and that will mean some people's personal budgets will be reduced, following reassessments for everyone who currently uses a personal budget to buy day services and activities.

The council gave two examples: Dorothy is assessed as not needing help with social activities. She gets £16,782 a year in her personal budget. She spends £16,282 on 21 hours of home care each week and keeps back £500 in case she needs extra help in an emergency. Under the proposals Dorothy's personal budget will not change.

Peter is assessed as needing a lot of help with social activities. His personal budget is £20,480 a year. He spends £5,242 a year on home support – one hour each day; £2,784 on respite care for five weeks of the year and £12,454 on day-to-day social activities. Under the proposal his personal budget will be cut and he will need to spend less on social activities.

Harold Bodmer, director of community services, said there needed to be a debate over the most appropriate use of personal budgets, but that the council would be looking if there could be other ways to provide wellbeing services to stop people becoming isolated.

Sue Whitaker, cabinet member for adult social services, said: 'It might be that there is someone in the village providing a service we can point people towards.

'We just can't afford to do it and when you look at some of the wellbeing things which people are using their personal budgets for, we have to ask if that's the best use of the money.

'We have run out of options. There are some things we can do about working smarter, but the most obvious things have been done already.

'If you look at the savings overall we have identified £140m, but about half of that is ironing out the kinks and looking at how we put our own house in order.

'We have got to hold our hands up and say there will be reductions and people will notice a difference.'

A further proposal looks to save £2.1m by reducing the number of people receiving personal budgets who are able to use their allocation to pay for transport.

The council currently spends £7m a year on that.

Mr Bodmer said: 'The county council has a statutory duty of care, so anybody who needs to be transported to get a service will be transported.

'But if people are able to pay for transport we want to look at that and whether people might be able to use mobility vehicles they have.'

Another contentious cut is to save £6m over three years by reorganising how the council provides care for people with learning or physical disabilities.

That will mean some people who currently get care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, may no longer do so and some people who share with one or two other people supported by carers might have to move.

Mr Bodmer said the council was currently paying for people who potentially did not need round-the-clock care and some might want to become more independent by moving to flat grouped together where care staff provide them support.

He said: 'It's unlikely we are going to move a lot of people, but we are looking at different ways of doing this.'

The council is planning to write to everyone who gets social care from the authority, while the public is being asked to have a say on the proposals.

Mr Bodmer said: 'We have got to take the money out, but if people have got other ideas of how to do that, we want to hear them.'

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