Edinburgh set to cut social care budget despite crisis

"Efficiency target" described as "madness"
The board in charge of the Capital's social care has struggled to balance its booksThe board in charge of the Capital's social care has struggled to balance its books
The board in charge of the Capital's social care has struggled to balance its books

SOCIAL care services in the Capital look set to be hit with a £4.8 million cut in next year’s council budget despite the crisis in the sector.

The city’s ruling SNP-Labour coalition is looking at the reduction in the money it gives to the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) - the body in charge of health and social care services - as it seeks to balance the books.

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A council document seen by the Evening News shows the £4.8m “EIJB efficiency target” is a key part of the administration’s attempt to find a total of £36m of savings in its 2020/21 budget.

A source said: “They believe there is extra money coming to Scotland from the increase in health spending promised in England and they expect that to go to NHS here. But then it’s at the discretion of the NHS whether that goes into hospitals or other services or to IJBs.”

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said the proposed cut was “madness”.

He said: “It sounds a strange and convoluted logic which may or may not be a truthful assessment. But regardless, making a cut to what the council puts into social care in the hope a Scottish Government or NHS amount would make it up seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

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“This service has failed in all its targets, had the highest number of delayed discharges in Scotland and has a whole lot of people who are assessed as needing care and aren’t being provided with it.

“It needs some serious investment as well as changes to the way it works.

“You might say we’ll look at the levels of resource once we’ve got a system that’s running efficiently and we know it’s hitting its targets but to start making cuts at this stage seems like madness to me.”

Last year, the IJB was only able to balance the books at the end of the year following a bailout by both the city council and NHS Lothian.

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And this year the board has also struggled to make ends meet.

Bed-blocking has been a big issue, with 86 people dying in Lothian hospitals in 2018/19 while waiting to be discharged due to a shortage of home care - more than anywhere else in Scotland.

City finance convener Alasdair Rankin said the council was looking at a range of options put forward by officials in the face of continued financial pressures.

But it is still unclear when the council will learn how much funding it is to receive from central government in the coming financial year.

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Chancellor Sajid Javid has announced the UK budget will be on March 11. No date has been set for the Scottish Government budget, but Cllr Rankin has already said the council will not agree all its spending plans until the figures are known.

He said: “We hear from the Conservative government at Westminster about increased spending on health and education and the police and also infrastructure. If all those things are going to happen there would be Barnett consequentials - more money coming to Scotland.

“We would like to be able to spend more on adult social care if that is affordable. If we were able to spend more I think that would be a high priority, given the level of demand in the system.

“There are quite a lot of new initiatives being put in place by our adult social care management team which have already produced results in terms of reducing the amount of bed blocking and being able to give people care packages.

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“We are improving the efficiency of the service and that’s part of the calculation as well.”

He said councils had faced a spending squeeze at the same time as demand for services had risen.

“For years now we’ve been in the position where we’ve had to make difficult decisions between one priority and another.

“You’re between a rock and a hard place because you’ve got the legal requirement to set a balanced budget and yet you want to be able to meet demand for these services that people badly need.

“We will perform our usual balancing act and come up with what we hope will be the least painful set of options.”