Help for Social Services Is Welcome but Demand Will Outstrip Resources; Bruce McLernon Gives ADSS Cymru's Reaction to the Draft Budget and the Implications for Social Services: THE PROFESSIONALS

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Byline: Bruce McLernon

AS WE have stressed many times in this column, social services is a big, complex business affecting the lives of thousands of service users, carers and their families.

Welsh councils spent pounds 1.35bn in 2008-09 providing social services to around 82,000 people across all age groups.

As the leadership organisation for social services inWales, we were encouraged by the Assembly Government's draft Budget and the element of protection for social services that it contained.

This is helpful news for the sector - showing recognition for the importance of the services we provide and the pressures being experienced across all aspects of social care.

But this doesn't mean the social services budget will be immune to the real-term revenue cuts councils will endure over the next few years.

An additional pounds 35m over three years for social services is helpful but has to be considered within the context of no allowances for inflation.

Independent forecasts calculate that for 2011-12 social services spending needs to increase by around pounds 20m just to take account of price inflation.

Reductions in council budgets, together with increasing demands on social services, will continue to put severe pressure on a system that is already struggling to cope - despite the Assembly Government's Budget protection. Within children's social services there is a continuing increase in the number of children coming into the care system and increases in the number of children being placed on the child protection register.

Investment in preventative family support services, which can help reduce the demand for child protection in the future, has never been more crucial.

ADSS Cymru is concerned that the need for councils to meet budget cuts will prohibit investment in such services - and so we risk facing a negative circle of rising demand and rising costs.

Equally, pressures in adult social services continue to rise exponentially and there is a real danger that cuts in council budgets will force them to reduce services for the elderly and the vulnerable. …