In late November, the Herald newspaper reported findings from an investigation into health and social care financial pressures across Scotland. Worryingly, they found that Glasgow’s Social Work Service faces a possible £9m overspend this year. While this is less than the local authority with the biggest problem, Fife Council, who predict a £10.7m overspend, it represents a serious challenge for those in the city trying to provide services for vulnerable people and a growing elderly population.
In papers submitted to October’s Finance & Audit Scrutiny Committee, the Council stated that, “The principal reasons for this overspend relate to the inflationary increase agreed for the national care home contract, the implementation of the personalisation programme, the lack of available accommodation for homelessness, placements for looked after children and the delivery of productivity savings.”
Age Scotland told the Herald that social care budgets across the country are at “breaking point”, and that older people were receiving “blink and you miss it homecare visits”, potentially missing health problems, the consequences of which can be severe for physical and mental health. He added that care workers hurrying through personal care tasks, due to time constraints, can in itself be distressing for older people
Responding to the report, a COSLA spokesperson said that the reasons for overspending were complex and that year on year increases in demand, combined with a difficult financial climate, “cannot be overcome through efficient and effective budget management alone.
In related news, research carried out by Glasgow and Heriott Watt universities, on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), has found that councils serving deprived areas in Scotland face cuts of up to £90 per head more than those serving the most affluent areas.
The findings are published in a new report – Coping, with cuts? Local government and poorer communities – which ispart of a wider JRF research programme on the impact of austerity on poorer people.
If police, schools and housing benefit spending are excluded, local government spending in Scotland in 2015 will be 24% lower than it was in 2008.
Research in England, which will also be carried out in Scotland, found that strategies that impact directly on frontline services are now replacing ones based on efficiency savings, while some services are shrinking or disappearing altogether. While local authorities have been till now trying to shield the most vulnerable from the impact of cuts, the sheer scale of budget reductions they are facing means that it is inevitable that continued austerity will hit them hardest, resulting in what the report warns will be the slow but inexorable creation of a divided society, where measures to reduce spending in the present will store up problems for the future.