VODG calls for more money to address ‘fragile’ sector

The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) is calling on the government to urgently address the ‘fragile’ social care sector in this month’s autumn budget after years of cuts.

The charity, which represents more than 90 not-for-profit groups supporting disabled people, said decades of underfunding ‘must not be overlooked’ by Chancellor Phillip Hammond on Monday 29 October. It warned that things could get worse because of Brexit, which could potentially unsettle labour markets.

In its A stitch in time report, the group said voluntary and not-for-profit providers had been ‘disproportionately’ affected by adult social care budget cuts, which have totalled £7bn in the last eight years.

Local authorities have planned £700m worth of savings for 2018/19.

In England there are 11.5 million disabled people, with voluntary and not-for profit organisations providing one fifth of services supporting people with complex conditions.

The report said the government must focus on councils that are in ‘serious’ financial trouble, such as Northamptonshire County Council, and carry out inspections to make sure they are able to fulfil their statutory care duties in line with the Care Act 2014.

In July, Northamptonshire County Council’s director of finance reported a potential budget shortfall of £60-£70m for the financial year. Earlier in the year the local authority’s director of adult social care Anna Earnshaw said services were on the ‘edge of being unsafe’.

VODG wants to see the government ‘permanently suspend’ plans to order councils to make repayments to sleep-in workers. It said the financial cost to councils risks forcing care providers into closure and could see many disabled people, who employ personal assistants through personal budgets cuts, have their money cut.

VODG chief executive Dr Rhidian Hughes said: ‘Social care is a victim of a triple whammy of squeezed funding, increasing demand and increasing costs. This impacts on disabled people and adversely affects other public sector services such as the NHS.

‘It’s not too late for government to improve the fragile state of the adult social care system and to safeguard existing and future support for people who rely on care services.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We have provided local authorities access to £9.4bn in dedicated social care funding over the last three years.

‘Our green paper due later in the year will set out our plans to reform the social care system to make it sustainable for the future.’