Complaints rise 50% as Lancashire social care services face £92m black hole

William Butterworth, 90, of Lostock Hall

William Butterworth, 90, of Lostock Hall

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A DRAMATIC rise in complaints about Lancashire’s social care services has been revealed in a shock new report.

Grievances over treatment have soared by more than 50 per cent in the past year, a trend which County Hall chiefs fear they will not be able to stem without financial help from the Government.

The figures come at a time when an ageing population and the rising cost of services have already combined to spark a red alert over the future of care for the elderly in the county, which is facing a black hole of £92million in its social care budget by 2021.

One of those affected, William Butterworth, 91, of Lostock Hall, whose wife Dorothy is in a care home, has predicted social care in Lancashire is “heading for a big crisis”.

William’s wife Dorothy suffers from dementia and has been a resident in three care homes - one almost 30 miles from her home in Lostock Hall.

William’s prediction comes on the day a new report reveals a dramatic rise in the number of complaints about social care services in Lancashire.

Last year saw a shock increase of more than 50 per cent in the number of grievances registered with the county council.

Complaints were up by 25 per cent in adult social care and a staggering 88 per cent in children’s cases.

And those figures coincide with another new report which has sparked a red alert over the future of care for older people in Lancashire, with the county said to be facing a £92m black hole in its social care budget by 2021.

Now County Hall leaders have decided to write to Government ministers urging them to address the funding crisis which they say is “unsustainable.”

The report predicts: “The quality and sustainability of the adult social care markets for home care, residential and nursing homecare are at risk”.

The case of William and Dorothy is just one of many which highlight the problems the county has in providing adequate care for an ageing population.

Dorothy, 89, was one of 33 victims of the closure of £742-a-week Cuerden Grange Nursing Home in Bamber Bridge last year.

The only suitable place the authorities could find for her was in St Annes, leaving William facing four separate bus journeys and a half-mile walk to visit her.

“Some of Dorothy’s care has been bad, some good, but a fall in funding is very worrying,” he said at home in Fir Trees Avenue, Lostock Hall.

“We pay a lot of money for her to be there so you expect the care to be good. But if the standard of care is going to fall, I’m going to be really worried about what will happen to her.”

Dorothy, 89, is now at a Longton care home and William is happy with her current care.

But commenting on the latest report, he said: “Anyone that has been around care homes for a while, like I have, could have told you that this was coming - that there’s a big problem.

“The sector needs more funding not less. More homes need to be built because hospitals need the beds and these people need cared for properly.

“But the future doesn’t sound good, judging by what’s in this report.”

County Hall officers say the county is facing a multi-million pound shortfall in its funding for social care, sparking fears key services could be at risk.

The authority has a £26m shortfall in its social care funding in 2017/18 rising to £92m in 2020/21, according to a report to the county council’s scrutiny committee.

It says difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff and demographic pressures have raised concerns that “the quality and sustainability of the adult social care markets for home care, residential and nursing homecare are at risk” and local authorities could be priced out of the care market.

They claim that even a two per cent council tax rise falls far short of addressing the financial gap for adult social care.

But critics say that while pressure has been felt because of a cut in funding from Central Government, it has been compounded by poor planning and “wasting money” on consultants.

Coun Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “Increasing demand for our services and reductions in government funding mean the county council faces a funding gap of £148million by 2020/21.

“We spend most of our funding on adult social care, so it is not surprising that £92 million of that shortfall will be in this area.

“Additional government funding for social care is entirely inadequate for the scale of the challenge we face. In total, the two per cent council tax increase, known as the social care precept, and the Better Care Fund will bring in just £11.5m in 2017/18, against an increase in costs of £37.7m.

“This is clearly not sustainable and the council as a whole has called on the government to look again at how it funds services in Lancashire.”

He also said specialist consultants had been brought in to help overhaul our adult services so in a bid to make long-term savings.

But Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the opposition, said the use of consultants is a “waste of money”.

He said: “Yes LCC is facing serious financial pressures regarding the grant from central Government, but unlike other local authorities, the LCC administration doesn’t have a plan.

“It is wasting huge sums of money on things like consultants. For social care, the consultants’ bill is upwards of £6.5m.”

As the Government is allowing councils to levy an extra two per cent in Council Tax to hep fund social care bills, it will generate £8.3m in Lancashire. Cash from the Better Care Fund will bring in an extra £3.2m.

But the Lancashire County Council report says price and demand pressures for adult social care will total £37.7m “resulting in an overall pressure for the service area of £26.2m in 2017/18.”