No more money
A POOL of money used to help people with learning disabilities has run dry - and there will be no more money until April, it has been revealed.There is such pressure on budgets at Suffolk County Council that, although not yet spent, the learning disabilities money has already all been accounted for.
A POOL of money used to help people with learning disabilities has run dry - and there will be no more money until April, it has been revealed.
There is such pressure on budgets at Suffolk County Council that, although not yet spent, the learning disabilities money has already all been accounted for.
The council is legally obliged to provide care for people who meet the critical criteria but it means people with lesser needs may not have access to a range of services.
Anthony Douglas, director of Suffolk Social Services said that because of the pressures on budgets, there has to be stringent financial controls and the team has shown foresight in planning ahead to make sure the money is there for the people they knew would need it in the next few months.
But that means that all the money has now been accounted for leaving no room for any extras, for example if someone new should move into the county and need help.
The money is used to help people with learning difficulties including housing them in special residential homes if they are unable to cope alone.
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For critical cases, for example if a person with severe learning difficulties is normally looked after by a family member who is now ill or in hospital, the money will have to be taken from other budgets to ensure they get the care they need and for the council to fulfill its legal obligation.
Up to £35million is spent every year in Suffolk by social care and the NHS.
Mr Douglas said: "The council has had to take the decision to prioritise growth in our services to older people and to protect children.
"This means we can't plan to expand the services we offer to people with learning difficulties as much as we would like.
"However through joint funding with our colleagues in local NHS Primary Care Trusts we will continue to address any new critical, usually urgent needs.
"Pooled funds, in both learning disability and indeed mental health services are both a useful way of working jointly and an important way of predicting needs and managing the budget for these services.
"Being able to match predicted need with a planned budget is an important part of stringent financial controls on our spending."
However Mr Douglas did point out that Social Services has made a number of improvements this year, reorganising services and linking more closely with the health service to bring better involvement in mainstream community activities for many people.
Through the New Employment Service for People with Learning Disabilities, direct payment schemes (where people can employ their own carers) and also by trying to move away from direct residential care towards more independent, supported housing to try and improve people's lives and independence.
Mr Douglas said: "Altogether the major changes and efficiencies we are making, the greater choice and independence for many people, will be a big improvement, albeit within tighter budget constraints than in our absolute priority areas of service investment."
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