Vulnerable people in Norfolk face cuts to transport as bid to save £3.8m is stepped up
- Credit: Archant
A drive to save £3.8m, by reducing how much Norfolk County Council pays for vulnerable people to travel for services, means 'difficult conversations' will have to be had between social workers and those getting care.
County Hall agreed, in 2014, to cut the £7.1m it spends on transporting people who get adult social care to the places where they get that service.
The council pays for about 2,000 people to get to those services and wanted to cut £1.8m in 2014/15, £150,000 in 2015/16, just over £1m in 2016/17 and £800,000 in 2017/18.
However, over the past couple of years the department has only saved about £500,000, so £3m of the savings has been pushed back to 2018/19 and £800,000 to 2019/20.
The council is about to start a fresh attempt to make the savings, which will involve asking people to use public or community transport to get to services if they are assessed as being able to do so.
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They will also be asked to use the service closest to them if that will meet their needs, with the council not paying for them to travel to services further away.
James Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council acknowledged that would lead to what he described as 'crunchy talks' between social workers and care users.
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But he said people's expectations about what the council pays for needs to change. He said: 'It's not an agenda about cutting services or a blanket policy, but is a change in expectations about what people do for themselves, what families do for people and that are vulnerable and about how society is changing.
'It's not an easy answer and I don't want to suggest it's going to be easy. These will be difficult conversations, but it is firmly backed up by the Care Act.'
However, Roz Czarnowska, chief executive of Nansa, which provides services for people with disabilities, said the approach would take away choice for people and might even lead to the closure of some day services, if people are only able to access the nearest provider.
But Mr Bullion said there would not be a blanket policy.
He said: 'I would expect staff undertaking social work assessments to adopt a case by case basis approach, taking into account people's preferences, but also taking into account the constraints of their personal budgets.'