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Adult care costs under control, says council
SWINDON Council says it has finally got its adult social care budget under control as it expects to break even for the first time this financial year.
The council has struggled with the budget for several years, mainly because of higher demand for services for the elderly, although the department also supports adults with learning difficulties and mental health issues.
Last financial year, cabinet allocated £1.3m from a contingency top-up fund to plug a massive overspend, and the budget also overspent in previous financial years.
But the council now predicts it will stick within the £45m budget in 2012/13, largely because it now has an understanding of how the complex system works and where the costs come from.
Coun Brian Mattock , cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “Adult social care has always been looked at as ‘oh gosh, the budget that’s overspent’.
“It has overspent because of demand but we’ve really got to grips with both the re-organisation of the staff structure and the understanding of the resources and where the money is spent, in addition to the integration of health and adult social care.
“And that’s why I’m absolutely confident we will be able to manage that demand in the future. We don’t know from one day to the next the number of people who will need our support. But this is the first time for many years we’ve been in a position to be reasonably confident that if things stay as they are, we will be working within our budget and that’s a huge thanks to the great contribution that the officers and our new commissioning structure has made.”
Swindon Council, working with the health and voluntary sector, has just completed an inquiry to manage long-term demand, which is expected to increase year-on-year.
Coun Mattock said a strategy had been produced, aimed at reshaping services to manage demand, with an emphasis on supporting people at an earlier stage in their life to ensure they do not fall too early into more costly care-dependency.
He said: “One example is someone feeling that they might need some support. They might decide to go to a residential home just down the road. But in doing so they immediately become less independent because everything is done for them, and very quickly, because of the cost of residential and nursing home care, their money runs out. That then becomes a responsibility of the local authority.
“But at that stage they aren’t able to be independent and live the life we would like them to do, so they become a cost on the adult social care budget. We have got to signpost much earlier, we’ve got to be in a position where people in the community have all the advice of the right sort of support at the right time and not get into dependency culture too quickly.”