Thousands of most vulnerable in Norfolk would be affected by £50m social care cuts
- Credit: PA
Thousands of the most vulnerable people in Norfolk could be robbed of choices about care as councillors consider slashing £50m in what they spend on services.
That is the stark warning from union leaders, who fear the impending disaster of a 'perfect storm' – of Norfolk's increasingly elderly population and the county council having to save a massive £111m over the next three years.
Every committee at Norfolk County Council has been asked to plan to be spending 25pc less in three years time, which would mean the adult social services spend would diminish from £359m to £308m.
At a key meeting today, Norfolk county councillors will be told only a 'fundamental change to Norfolk's adult social care model' can deliver those savings.
That would mean reducing the number of social-care assessments and providing fewer packages of
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care – with a focus instead on
voluntary services helping keep people independent and in their own homes.
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Social workers have already been instructed to reduce the number of residential placements by a quarter by March next year. They have been told to use homes run by Norsecare – the council's arm-length company – unless there is 'a clear reason that this is not possible'.
But Alison Birmingham, Unison's senior steward for adult social care, warned: 'They are effectively creating a quota system for residential care, which is about saving money. Decisions should be based on people's needs and what is best for those people.
'Keeping people independent is important, but it is not suitable for everyone.
'People do not realise that the choices they can make when they are old are in danger of becoming less and less. Services are stretched to the limit, staff are under enormous pressure and it is beginning to become the perfect storm.'
The council said the majority of residential care placements are in independently-run homes and they did not anticipate that changing.
But Sue Whitaker, chair of the council's adult social care committee at Norfolk County Council, said: 'Given the nature of the department's work, and a local population that is ageing, finding further significant savings will be difficult.
'Norfolk has a history of moving more people into traditional residential care than almost any comparable county.
'This is no longer considered best practice. Supporting people to maintain a good quality of life in their own homes is not only what people prefer but it also has better outcomes for residents and is more economical for the taxpayer.'
Mark Harrison, chief executive of disability charity Equal Lives, said he was 'deeply concerned' about future cuts.
He said: 'Last year they took well-being payments out of people's personal budgets when the new Care Act is based around prevention and well-being. Now they are planning a further raid on personal budgets and services – pushing the cuts on to disabled and vulnerable people.
'Equal Lives said the result of the cuts would be to make disabled people 'prisoners in their own homes'. This is now being realised.
'We believe the proposed cuts mean that Norfolk cannot meet its statutory duty under the Care Act or the Equality Act. Rather than re-modelling and improving services, this is death by a thousand cuts.'
Other counties in the region are also gearing up for cuts as government grants dwindle.
Cambridgeshire County Council is looking to save £150m over the next five years, while Suffolk County Council is in the midst of making almost £40m of savings.
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