FRESH cuts to budgets which help care for some of the county’s most needy people have sparked fears services could be at risk.
Plans to cut an extra £46m from the county council’s budget were announced last week after the authority had its grant from the Government slashed by 12 per cent. Social care will bear the brunt, with an extra £18.5m of cuts.
The council’s adult social care budget pays for essentials like home care as well as day centres, dial-a-ride schemes and other services aimed at reducing isolation.
It can also provide support, advice and much-needed equipment, but it does not fund care homes, which are not run by the council.
Council chiefs say most of the £18.5m extra savings in adult social care announced last week will be found through efficiencies, closer working with the NHS and preventative measures to keep people out of costly care.
Redundancies have not been ruled out, but the authority has not said when or where the axe will fall.
Pensioners and campaigners say they fear for the lifelines which keep them going if budgets are stripped further in the future.
Edith Parsons, 86, has already fought a losing battle to save dial-a-ride services in Oxford from cutbacks after they were taken on by the county council last year.
Reduced services were run after the control of the scheme was handed from district councils.
Mrs Parsons, of Broadhead Place, said things like dial-a-ride and the help she gets to take her medicine were lifelines.
She said: “They are important, and it’s not just me. Some people used to use the dial-a-ride three days a week, but now they’re only allowed two journeys.
“They are lifelines and I think people would feel isolated if they didn’t have them.”
Among the proposed changes are an estimated £3m of savings through preventative measures, aimed at keeping people living independent at home for as long as possible to avoid the costs of care.
The council also expects to save around £300,000 from its budget for day centres in 2015, but has not confirmed how this will be achieved.
Any extra savings will be on top of those already planned by charging for the centres and transport for their users.
Liberal Democrat spokesman on adult services Jenny Hannaby said: “I am gravely concerned for the services for the elderly that are already under pressure.
“We need to really look at what the pressures are. I think the elderly are going to suffer, there’s no two ways about it, and it’s no surprise that the biggest cut is going to be to adult social care.”
She said the savings were bound to hit services at some point.
She said: “You can only take so much off the back services before the frontline services start to suffer.
“What we’ve got to make sure is that if they’re doing things like pooling budgets, that they’re doing it properly.
“It’s all very well talking about preventative measures, but that’s still got to be monitored.”
County council leader Ian Hudspeth said the cuts were most severe in adult social care because it was the department with the biggest budget.
He said: “We’re trying to look at different ways of working. If you give people personal budgets, you give them the ability to choose what services they want.
“There’s also going to be a closer tie-in with the National Health Service.”