MORE time is needed to develop plans which could see funding for services for vulnerable people in Worcestershire slashed by more than half, a senior council member has said.
Worcestershire County Council’s Future Lives consultation involves an extensive revamp of care for older people, vulnerable families and homeless youngsters as well as mental health and learning difficulties services and a range of others and proposes cutting the authority’s supporting people budget from £15 million a year to £6.5 million.
Earlier this month the council’s cabinet member for adult social care Cllr Sheila Blagg was granted delegated powers to determine the outcome of the consultation – part of the council’s drive to save 98 million by 2017.
Cllr Blagg said she, along with cabinet member for health and wellbeing Cllr Marcus Hart and member for children and families Cllr Liz Eyre, will ask the cabinet to dedicate an extra £1 million from its adult and social care reserves and £2 million from council tax surpluses towards the project.
"We have listened to all of the many responses received during the consultation and one of the major concerns raised was the fast pace of change so we are asking cabinet to agree to extend this period,” she said.
“When we went to consultation, we didn't know that we would be collecting a surplus of £2million worth of council tax payments from district councils and we are asking cabinet if this money can be used to ease the transition for these prevention, early help and other support services.
"We would use this extended period to hold further discussions with partners and providers about what funding they might be able to contribute and how we can get the most out of the investment in the longer term."
Critics of the plans say they will have a serious impact on vulnerable people, including the potential loss of a £630,000 grant to Worcester Community Housing which could lead to the loss of wardens in sheltered accommodation.
Last month chairman of Healthwatch Worcestershire Peter Pinfield wrote to the council’s director of adult services and health Dr Richard Harling expressing serious concerns on the plans.
He said delays in making an accessible version of the consultation documents available had disadvantaged people with learning difficulties and that older people may not be able to access online services.
“Consumers are concerned that the focus of the Future Lives programme on reducing investment in preventative service areas appears to fly in the face of current thinking on tackling health and well-being,” he wrote.
The plans will next come before Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet on Thursday, March 6.