Calls for government cash as Northamptonshire adult social care already £6m overspent

Northamptonshire’s adult social care service has overspent by £6m just three months into the new financial year and council leaders and health chiefs are meeting with MPs today to call for more funds.

Just three months into the financial year adult social care in Northants is already spending 6m more than it has in the budget.
Just three months into the financial year adult social care in Northants is already spending 6m more than it has in the budget.

Director of adult social services at Northamptonshire County Council Anna Earnshaw revealed the figures at a scrutiny meeting yesterday (June 26) and said high demand was the cause of the multi-million-pound budget overspend.

The overspend comes when the authority, which is in a ‘fragile’ financial state, needs to cut £23.8m from its £240m budget this financial year.

At today’s Westminster meeting, senior officers and council leaders from across the county will call on the county’s seven Northamptonshire MPs to lobby the Government to put up some ‘seed funding’ to help transform the service.

Anna Earnshaw, who has been in post for three years, said the funds were needed to help remodel the service so that less money is spent on crisis issues and more money can be put into prevention work. She said currently only £12m was spent in prevention areas.

She told the meeting: “Last year we saw an increase of about 20 per cent in the demand on the service but this year if you look at our budget after savings, we have a net zero increase in budget.

“Managing demand within the budget that you are set is increasing difficult for all authorities and obviously key to that is how we manage it and how we deflect and how we stop people escalating too quickly.

“If you look at our spend as a health and social system what you would see is a very small piece for prevention and a huge spend going towards crisis care and what we are really trying to pitch to government is to turn that around.”

The director said there had already been meetings with ministerial teams from the department of health and the local government department to look at the issue and another is planned before the Parliamentary summer break.

There are now less than two years before the council disbands and is replaced by two new unitary councils on government orders.

She said: “It is not by accident that the Secretary of State’s statement (about a change to unitary governance) included something on social care and health integration because myself, Theresa the chief executive and all the health chiefs went down to London and saw ministerial teams. That announcement was timed so they could understand how well we were progressing in terms of our plans and how well we were integrated together.

“We presented quite a strong pitch to them about the challenges we had in the system and also a challenge to them to support us to turn that around and that perhaps to give us some seed funding to be able to turn it around.”

When asked after the meeting the director declined to put a figure on how much they were asking from government.

The director told the committee about the conflict between the safeguarding and financial demands of her job.

She said: “Two of the key duties I have are keeping the vulnerable safe from harm and working within the resources that I’ve got. They are equal duties – that’s a horrendous dilemma for any adult services director. It is really, really difficult and it’s not about doing just the bare minimum but it is about being honest with people that we will have to make decisions.”

The council’s Conservative administration earlier this month approved a new strategy for adult services.

Yesterday the scrutiny committee said they were broadly supportive of the strategy, which will rely more on people and their families to take control of their care.

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