The Brighton & Hove Health & Wellbeing Board was beset by protest from older people’s groups last week as they voted 6 to 1 to cut a massive £22m from adult social care services over the next 4 years.
The cuts were outlined in the seemingly innocuously-titled “Future direction of Adult Social Care Services”, which set out a range of proposals including privatisation of in-house care services and the expansion of personal budgets aimed at saving money. There were few tangible details of how the full £22m will be cut from the budget, leaving older people at the meeting deeply concerned at losing essential support.
The cuts come in the wake of a new Age UK report which finds cuts to social care services in recent years have left more than a million people over 65 in England struggling to undertake at least one basic task that is vital to their wellbeing, such as washing, getting dressed and feeding themselves . The report links these cuts to a large number of older people who are now being admitted to hospital because their illness has not been properly managed at home.
Convenor of the Green Group, Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty, who was the only member of the Board who refused to support the cuts, said:
“The direction of travel agreed raises the question: is this board capable of protecting the most vulnerable in society? My response has to be that instead of standing up for the most vulnerable, the Health and Wellbeing Board have embraced the privatisation and austerity agenda wholeheartedly while claiming their hands are tied.
“Integration and cost savings cannot be made at the expense of care for vulnerable people, and most certainly should not be filling the pockets of private shareholders. The starting point in agreeing a new direction for social care should be a conversation with the community, who have real insight into which, if any, savings can be made.
“This is yet another move that will drive up future costs for the Council and for the NHS as elderly and disabled people get into crisis. At Labour’s national conference we were told they were the UK’s only anti-austerity party, yet on this board we have the Conservatives clapping them on the back for introducing these pernicious cuts. Why is the Labour Administration not resisting these cuts or challenging central government in the slightest? These proposals will directly endanger the wellbeing and indeed the lives of our elderly and vulnerable citizens, which I absolutely cannot support”.