Threat looms for Merton’s social services funding

Local authorities in the capital, including Merton, are bracing themselves against the threat of losing £420 million from their grant for providing social care for physically and mentally disabled people, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and mental health services.
The news, according to London Councils, is due before the end of this year when government ministers will make final decisions about how council funding will be distributed between 2008 and 2011.
This announcement will tell the London boroughs if the government is going to fully implement a radical social services funding formula. This would mean removing the funding protection that prevents drastic cuts being made to several regions’ personal and social services grant. This new funding approach severely underestimates need in urban areas, and without funding protection, councils in the capital could lose almost £420 million from their social services funding.
The funding threat is posed at a time of increasing demand for social care services, which has already forced 80 per cent of London councils to restrict their care to only adults with substantial or critical needs.
London is set to lose out on funding because the new formula is inaccurate and unfairly discriminates against urban areas by using overly simplistic methods to work out an area’s need. It does not take full account of people with complex and multiple needs, such as people with mental health and drug problems who tend to live in more urban areas.
It has been estimated by London Councils that Merton is facing an eight per cent cut in social services funding, equivalent to £4.7m, if the so called damping is removed.
Councillor Margaret Brierly, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Services, says: “If this formula is fully implemented, then we will face a severe shortage in our funding for social care.
“We call upon the government to ensure that Merton residents get the funding that they deserve, and not to tinker with the way that money is currently distributed.”
London Councils Chairman, Councillor Merrick Cockell, stressed that: ”If the Government bows down to pressure and applies the raw funding formula without funding protection, it could have serious long-term implications for the future provision of social services for vulnerable adults throughout the capital.”