The Welsh Liberal Democrats Local Government spokesperson, Peter Black, has called for additional protection for social service budgets in Wales
Speaking in the debate on the local government budget in the Assembly today, Mr. Black said that councils face difficult decisions as a result of a 4.4% cut in the grant they receive from the Welsh Government. However, limited protection for education budgets was not replicated for social services. As a result, there is a danger that an important safety net will be removed and the health service put under even more pressure.
"In his statement on winter pressures in the health service today, the Deputy Minister for Health quite rightly pointed out that the NHS in Wales has seen a rise in the number of elderly patients who have complex needs and chronic conditions who need to be treated at and admitted to hospital," said Mr. Black. "That cannot be dealt with through investment in health services alone but needs commensurate investment in social services and community care so that people can be discharged from hospital promptly and can be cared for in their own home if that is appropriate."
"Some important work has been carried out this year with the creation of an integrated care fund as a result of the previous budget deal between the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government. That work needs to be extended into subsequent years and I urge the Minister to use the £70 million allocated to health and social services as a result of the UK Government’s autumn statement for that purpose.
"The extra £10 million put into social services this year will barely cover the overspend of one of the bigger councils in Wales on their service. I am afraid that unless we get an extension of the integrated care fund to underpin council social services then we will face an even worse crisis in our hospitals in the coming year."