Concerns over adult care

A SENIOR councillor has raised concerns that the level of adult social care expertise built up by local authorities could be dismantled under proposed changes.

Labour councillor Ged Hall was speaking at a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council's cabinet committee, which met to discuss the Government's strategic review of adult social care.

The emphasis is on rolling out personal budgets (PB) so that by 2013 everyone eligible for social care support will receive a PB, which gives people more choice and control over their care.

In Hartlepool there is already more than 1,500 people receiving a PB.

Coun Hall said this was positive but raised concerns that councils would no longer be providing social care services but instead become commissioners.

The Government has set out its "direction of travel" for adult social care in a white paper and two policy documents and it is those strategic documents that will shape the way councils work in the future.

A report to councillors outlined the Government's strategy.

It read: "Local authorities will increasingly become "enablers" and commissioners rather than directly providing services themselves."

Coun Hall, portfolio holder for adult services, said: "This is a total dismantling of the local authority social care system that we have built up over a number of years."

Key messages from the strategic vision include protecting the front-line from spending cuts but make "in house" services the exception and to expand the number of social enterprises.

Coun Hall added: "If you take the local authority out of social care you take the professionalism out and create a two tier system which relies on the "Big Society" to promote and provide social care."

The Big Society agenda aims to empower communities and open up public services.

The upcoming Localism Bill will also give organisations the ability to challenge local authorities where they believe they can provide services differently or better.

Nicola Bailey, the council's director of child and adult services, said it is unclear how adult social care will be funded or structured in the future, describing it as a "moving target".

She added: "Hartlepool does provide a high quality social care service to a range of people both on the preventative and intervention side."