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Charity fears elderly will pay price as councils slash funds

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 10, 2012

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Cuts to care funding which have slashed millions of pounds from Westcountry council budgets have left the majority of councillors feeling uneasy, a renowned charity has warned.

More than three-quarters of councillors whose local authority has made cuts to preventative and low-level social care have admitted they are worried about the impact on the elderly and vulnerable, a poll has revealed.

The study, by the British Red Cross, said cutting such budgets was a false economy which could ultimately cost taxpayers millions of pounds.

British Red Cross chief executive Sir Nick Young said: "Cutting vital services is not only bad for elderly and vulnerable people, but bad economics.

"Investing in preventative care also means millions of pounds will eventually be saved as fewer people need intensive and expensive support.

"We know councils are facing pressures on their budgets but we urge them to rethink short-term cuts and spending freezes which could actually leave them worse-off financially."

Some Devon councils have reduced care budgets in response to Government grant cuts of up to 28%.

Last week Torbay published plans to axe more than £3 million from its Adult Social Care and Supporting People budget.

In Cornwall concern over large numbers of elderly people has prompted the cabinet to ring fence care spending, though future budgets may tighten.

Councillor Mario Fonk, a member of Cornwall Council's Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, agreed with the results of the poll and called for an increase in spending

"Budgets have on the whole gone up but not by enough," he added. "We cannot say that is going to be the case in future.

"In Cornwall we have a large amount of elderly people who will need more support – my fear is that in future there will be people who will fall through the net."

The report found that preventative support services such as home from hospital schemes and care in the home save taxpayers millions of pounds in health costs.

It showed six different Red Cross schemes offered an average return on investment of 149% for commissioners by preventing hospital stays, reducing levels of readmission and minimising the need for expensive residential care.

It is estimated that British Red Cross services alone could save the NHS and social care up to £8 million.

Some 64% questioned said their council had cut or frozen funding for preventative and lower-level social care by on average 16%.

A total of 76% of councillors felt this had left elderly and vulnerable residents in their area at greater risk.

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