Yvonne Furze, ARC’s Information and Membership Manager reviews VODG’s AGM which was held on 29 November 2012.

VODG’s final meeting of the year and AGM was well attended and had some interesting speakers.

James Lloyd, Director, Strategic Society Centre, talked about the Dilnot ‘Cap/Cost’ model, pointing out that it is a spending model and not a funding model. He explained that there has been no discussion or awareness raising about the self-funder premium (the difference between what the LA is willing to pay for residential places and the actual cost, topped up by the individual) which will still have to be paid by the individual even when they have reached the £35k (Cap). Or will it be £75k? This is being muted, with concerns that it won’t get public support. The risks and issues for working age adults have not been discussed and the worry is that LAs could be left working out where to find the money, and this will have a knock-on effect on other spending. James demonstrated to many of us that we didn’t understand the Dilnot proposals as well as we had thought, and the possibility of developing a range of scenarios to show how it will really pan out for people was discussed.

The second speaker, Tony Wilson, Policy Director, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, gave us a run down on the imminent changes to welfare benefits and who will lose out. One of the big concerns is that the decisions about changing these benefits were made in 2010 and the forecasts for the economy were much better than they have been of late. We now have a much bigger fiscal problem and the predictions are much worse than expected. This basically means the poor will suffer for longer.

The Universal Credits give better incentives for people to take up low hours jobs and less incentives for the middle range jobs (16 – 14 hours). There are various ways this could pan out. Employers may not want to take on part time workers because they will will still be expected to sign-on and will be expected to show what they are doing to increase their hours. This may mean they move on more quickly to other jobs offering more hours. On the other hand, there could be an explosion in short hour posts because employers won’t need to enrole those workers in the new pension arrangements as they won’t earn enough, and the incentives are there for those currently in receipt of benefits to take up short hour jobs. The under-occupancy rules which will effect Housing benefit will have an impact on social housing providers.

The final input was from David Walden and Rachel Ayling, who have been looking at efficiencies and are developing guidance and tools for leadership in local councils. Some of the statistics were very interesting.

  • Services for people with learning disabilities consume 24% of ASC budgets. This cannot be sustained.
  • Gross expenditure has decreased for most groups but not for people with learning disabilities.
  •  The number of people receiving support has gone down for all client groups except learning disabilities.

On the surface it looks like the learning disability budget is going up at the expense of older peoples’, but in fact the cost per person for people with learning disabilities has been going down. However, the statistical analysis does seem to suggest that councils have sought to ‘protect’ services for people with learning disabilities.

There is a huge variation in what councils pay, and lots of squeezing of staff terms and conditions by employers in order to protect the front line service. However, some councils are recognising that they will no longer be able to make enough savings through ‘shaving’ costs and cutting hours, and are beginning to talk about needing a “complete rethink”. Gloucestershire are one of the only councils looking seriously at shared budgets. Providers noted that they were having more discussions with procurement and contracts and less intelligent debate with commissioners.

The meeting closed with an update on the response to Winterbourne View from Mark Goldring, who was very positive about the latest version of the Concordat, despite the time its taken to develop it and get support from Norman Lamb.