Some of the coalition’s plans to cut the national budget deficit are beginning to take shape and we are beginning to see where the ‘pain’ will be felt. As I have previously remarked, the atmosphere within the service where I work anyway, has most definitely been one of austerity in the face of further reconfiguration mainly seen through a recruitment freeze and the dismissal of all agency staff.
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On a broader scale though, there were a couple of announcements made yesterday that caught my attention. The one that will have the most significant implications on adult social care funding in the short term was the news via Community Care, that the ILF (Independent Living Fund) is closing to all new applicants for this year and bearing in mind the financial year starts in April and we’ve only made it to June..
In my current job I don’t work much with the ILF as it is another service that is restricted to working age adults, assuming that those who are over 65 no longer have the same desires and aspirations towards ‘independent living’ but that’s probably another story for another day, in a previous job working with adults with physical disabilities I did a lot of work with the ILF.
It is a centrally funded scheme aimed at those who have the highest level needs. It provided a lot of the groundwork for Direct Payments historically as the money was awarded to adults with disabilities to buy their own care directly and employ PAs (Personal Assistants) and become a front-runner for the services and ways that direct payments and now personal budgets have been managed. To summarise what is a fairly complicated system, the local authorities have to provide a certain level of assistance for the individual to be eligible and then the ILF matches the funds that the local authority provides.
The implications of the withdrawal of support from the ILF are that the greater burden of funding the highest level care packages will fall directly on the local authorities and there may be a restriction in the funding that might be reserved for less critical needs such as social stimulation and accessing community facilities.
The intention of the ILF is to enable more people to stay out of residential care. Of course as a result fo the changing social structure and services, the amounts of residential care homes do not exist (quite rightly) at the same levels but a need is a need and if central government won’t fund it, it looks like an increasingly stretched local government will have to, probably at a lower level.
Of the other cuts that have been announced, the one that saddens me personally is the cut to access to free swimming for under 16s and over 60s because this is something I see with my own eyes. We go swimming every week with my foster child and while paying would be fine for us, we can easily afford it, some of her friends can’t and their parents are only able to allow them to join us because it is free but when they swim together, the barriers come down a little.
I have mentioned it before and again that I live in one of the poorest areas of the city, just this week, a 15 year old kid was stabbed not 200 yards from our front door.
It may well be the case that a lot of the people benefiting would be able to pay anyway but I wish there would be a consideration of some kinds of means-testing, perhaps accessing free school meals as a pre-condition or highlighting some swimming pools in particular ‘deprived areas’, I don’t know but I see with my eyes a lot of the good that the policy has achieved and am saddened by it’s demise.
The local sports centre is a stone’s throw away and on Saturdays and Sundays it is full of kids of all ages enjoying the pool. I have a horrible feeling that this will change a lot after the withdrawal of this funding and there will be a lot less wholesome places for the kids to go to enjoy themselves.
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