Consultation on almost £1million East Sussex social care cuts

Subsidies for the meals on wheels service in East Sussex could be removed
Subsidies for the meals on wheels service in East Sussex could be removed

East Sussex County Council is to consult on plans to reduce its adult social care budget by almost £1million by 2020/21.

On Friday (May 24), Cllr Carl Maynard, cabinet member for adult social care, agreed to launch consultations on plans to cut a subsidy for meals on wheels users and to make wider changes to how the council supports working age adults.

According to council papers, the meals on wheels subsidy it proposes cutting – which sees the council pay part of the cost of each meal delivered to East Sussex residents – was budgeted for around £500,000 last year.

During the meeting, concerns were raised over what cutting the subsidy – set at £4.10 per person, per meal – would mean for the around 750 people receiving it.

Liberal Democrat councillor John Ungar said: “For many people it provides a safety call. A check someone is fine. A check that they are healthy, haven’t got any urgent need they are unable to address.

“The meals on wheels provider is able to contact adult social care to alert them.”

Cllr Ungar also raised concerns that the proposals would end up costing the council more in the long run as social workers and carers picked up the shortfall in care.

He also said it would have a disproportionate impact on women, as they make up the majority of those receiving the subsidy.

According to council papers nearly half of the clients who receive a subsidy are aged 85 years or over, while nearly two thirds are women.

In response, Keith Hinkley, the council’s director of adult social care and health, said officers were mindful of the health check element of the service.

He said this would be something officers would be looking at during the consultation, seeing if the loss of the subsidy would lead to many no longer using the service at all.

Mr Hinkley added that officers would be looking at whether special arrangements would need to be made for particularly vulnerable people who currently use the service with a subsidy. 

Cllr Anghard Davies (Con, Northern Rother), meanwhile, asked if providers could be asked to limit the overall cost of the service to £6 per meal, if the subsidy is removed.

However Mr Hinkley said this would not be possible as the price is set by the providers depending on the cost of the delivery.

Currently the cost of service varies from £4 to £8, depending on where in the county the service is provided.

The other proposals concern how the council decides what sort of support is given to working age adults, who require some form of care.

According to the council, it gives long-term support to a larger proportion of working age adults than similar local authorities do, with around 2,500 people receiving this kind of care across the county.

The council says it also has a higher proportion of working age adults receiving care in a residential or nursing home than similar local authorities.

The council is proposing it changes how it provides this support by looking to provide community-based support as an alternative to residential care.

It would also look to move those with lower levels of need into “alternatives to funded care services”, the council papers say.

Any changes to anyone’s care would be done after an individual care review, but the council says the changes could see some people’s support reduced or removed entirely.

If these proposals were approved, council papers say, the council would be expected to save around £247,000 in 2019/20 and a further £248,000 in 2020/21.

The consultation on cutting the meals on wheels subsidy is expected to run from May 28 to August 6, while the consultation on changes to the support for working age adults is expected to run from June 4 to August 13.