Cllr Tim Brett, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Fife Council, has expressed concern about the on-going financial pressures on the Social Work Service across Fife.
The Tay Bridgehead member said, ‘Despite the Administration’s assurance that this issue would be addressed through last year’s Priority Based Budgeting work, it is now clear that the pressures on the Social Work Service have not lessened, and once again we are heading for a significant overspend of £15 M this year. This is particularly worrying in the lead-up to the new Integrated Health and Social Care Service, as I know that there are equal pressures on NHS Fife Services.’
Cllr Brett observed that it has been known for many years that pressures on the Service would get worse due to the rising numbers of elderly people in the population, and also with more children needing to come into care. ‘It is now clear, ‘he continued, ‘that the Service is working at full capacity and apparently can only cope by putting people on a waiting list. Over the last few months the number of older people waiting for assessment has increased by 50% from 500 to a figure of 741. This is very worrying as it is likely to lead to more families and individuals getting into a crisis situation, if preventative work cannot be carried out at an earlier stage.’
Cllr Brett recalled that as part of this year’s budget the Labour Administration had proposed that the overspending problems would be addressed over the next 5 years by using £14 M of funding from balances and had stated that the overspend this year would be £5.2 M. ‘However, we are now being told that it will be £15M. I said at the time of the budget that I did not believe £5.2M would be sufficient to cover the overspend and this now appears to be the case.’
Cllr Brett urged both Fife Council and the NHS to think more radically about solutions to these problems. ‘The alternative is that waiting lists will grow longer and the overspend will get greater. This means looking critically at the best way of delivering services and at who might be the best providers of those services, whether provided in-house or through the voluntary or private sector’ and concluded, ‘Other authorities are doing so, as the Scottish Government has asked, but I can see no sign of this happening in Fife at present.’