27 Feb Is it going to be a race for the bottom?
Local authority budgets have been reduced, on average, by 40% since 2010. These authorities have all worked tirelessly to protect their communities from the brunt of these cuts by reshaping their services or finding new ways of working. The problem is that each year the cuts get deeper as finances dwindle. These hardworking local authorities are being forced to look for even more savings.
Local Authorities have a legal requirement to provide certain services, they have to spend money on these, before they can do things like repair potholes. The funding for these services comes from central government and is controlled directly by Parliament. Even these have been cut in recent years, meaning that local authorities have been forced to use their own funds, generated from council tax, to prop up services needed by local communities.
This then is a no win situation for local authorities putting them in the firing line, as public opinion sees them as the bad guys. Local Authorities have pushed back and demanded more discretion on the money they spend allowing them to balance budgets as they see fit. The recent repeal of the care act which listed services that had by law to be provided, has seen many restricted, or ring fenced services being removed, this has resulted in those services being cut or receiving considerably reduced funding.
Recent Government plans reviled that local authorities will have 100% discretion over all funding for refuges, hostels and other supported housing services. This will be achieved from 2019, with the government funding the nation’s supported accommodation system through housing benefit (or Universal Credit). These rates are considerably lower than currently and prone to the vagaries of the assessment system for benefits. the risk is, If one benefit is cut the rest are also lost.
Giving 100% discretion will been seen by many as common sense as local authorities know the needs of their communities, don’t they! However there is real fear is that with their dwindling budgets they will be forced to ask the question “which of these can we legally cut “and it will only be a matter of time before services for learning difficulties are threatened.
BEC along with other Charities are monitoring the situation to ensure these cuts do not extend to the provision of housing for learning disabilities. The current situation of poor housing, lack of services, no jobs or volunteering opportunities, no support or respite for carers has to stop. Often it’s a change in policy coming in under the radar, that results in services being cut and isn’t always obvious at first, this is why we need you help to monitor the current direction of travel. Let us know what happening in your area.