Think tank Demos has published a report on the impact of local authority budget cuts on disability services which for the first time ranks councils by how well they are coping as well as by the severity of the cuts.
The report, Coping with the Cuts, assessed the funding by the 152 local councils in England and 22 in Wales which have responsibility for social care and gave them one of seven 'coping' scores ranging from very good to very bad.
Funded by disability charity Scope, the research found that not all councils which made high levels of budget cuts scored badly on the coping scale and suggests that council strategy can mitigate the impact of the cuts.
For example, Hammersmith and Fulham scored ‘very high’ for budget cuts but ‘well’ for coping, whereas North East Lincolnshire actually increased its budget but scored ‘badly’ on the coping scale.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said: “We know that every council has to make cuts and there is no simple way to protect frontline services. However it’s clear that some councils are taking creative steps to attempt to reduce the negative impact of budget cuts on disabled constituents and it's right to commend those councils for taking the initiative to do so.”
In both England and Wales the score was based on changes to social care budgets; average changes in user charges for services; the care contribution policy and the current eligibility for state-funded social care in the local authority. In England the score also included the level of efficiency reduction placed on individual budgets and any changes in eligibility criteria.
Scope and Demos are now calling on councils to share how they are coping with the cuts.
Claudia Wood, author of the report said: “It’s not enough for councils to blame cuts from central government – our research clearly shows that there are best practices at a local level that can make the difference. It’s not just about the amount you have to spend, but how you spend it.”
The report found that the common characteristics of the high-ranking councils were; they involved disabled people in the decision-making process and the design of services; promoted individual and tailored support; promoted community-based support rather than segregated services and were moving towards more integrated services for care, health, housing and leisure.
The five councils where the cuts had the least negative impact on the frontline are:
- West Berkshire
And those with the most negative impact on the frontline are:
- City of London
- South Tyneside