Researchers at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, with funding from Trust for London, have examined, through an in-depth case study approach, three London councils’ responses to the cuts, as well as what those responses have meant for services and residents of one of the most deprived wards of each borough.
The research focused on services for families with under-fives, young people 16-24 and older people 65+.
Key findings include:
- Front line services for under-fives and young people have been impacted in all wards (with the exception of under-fives services in Camden) but not to the degree we might have expected from the extent of local government spending cuts.
- Staff reductions were widely reported in these services and were the principal change in most cases. Those reductions were being offset as far as possible through paid staff doing more and through use of volunteers. For this reason more extensive impact to the front line had to this point been avoided.
- Services for older people had been affected more than services for under-fives and young people in all three wards. Losses of day centres, reductions in activities, or higher charges had occurred across the case studies. Adult Social Care makes up the largest part of council spending and as councils are obliged to protect statutory provision discretionary community services are being substantially impacted.
- In the wards where children’s centre activity provision had been reduced parents reported worsening behavioural problems. Parents on low incomes were not able to offset those service reductions by paying for private services.
- Older residents who had experienced changes in local provision reported greater boredom. In some cases the changes have created a barrier to access (e.g. inability to pay higher charges) and leaving those older residents more isolated. Social ties were being severed with service losses.
- VCS organisations we spoke with are under increasing pressure, particularly smaller, locally specific ones. We have to question the long-term potential of VCS provision supplying the antidote to council reductions at the local level given the extent of competition for funding reported. We have noted here the reduction in all wards of funding to VCS providers of older people’s services and, importantly, the impact of that on older residents’ lives.
- This work reflects a snapshot at a particular point in time, just before local elections in 2014 and before a second round of budget cuts. The situation is likely to get worse. Several of the service managers we spoke with were unsure of the future of their job or the service they managed.
The report is part of the Social Policy in a Cold Climate research programme, jointly funded by Nuffield Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trust for London.