Skilled buyers can help cut wasteful social care spend

30 January 2012

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30 January 2012 | Angeline Albert

Raising the skill level of public sector buyers would help – but not plug – the funding gap in England’s adult social spending, according to the spokesman for the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government (SOPO).

Peter Howarth told SM that as adult social care spending is falling and unlikely to increase again to meet the needs of those relying on its services, public sector procurement staff have a significant part to play in eliminating wasteful spending.

He said: “We must be more efficient in spending what is left, which could result in better outcomes. Procurement officers should work more effectively with third sector organisations like Age UK to find out where costs can be reduced. There is still a lot of money wasted on both sides – the contract management and supply side. Costs could be reduced through better contract management and performance, and this can be done by increasing buying skills in the public sector. Even though this would not plug the spending gap, buyers skills should increase to help stop wasteful spending.”

His comments come as Age UK published a report today that said public sector spending on adult social care in England has fallen by £500 million in real terms. According to Age UK’s Care in Crisis 2012 report, not enough money is spent on older people’s care, with councils having cut back on their provision and increasing charges levied for services.

The document said that with a widening funding gap, keeping the care system at the same level as in 2010 (before cuts) would require an expenditure of £7.8 billion on older people’s social care in 2011/12 – but this year, spending is only £7.3 billion, a shortfall of £500 million.

Responding to claims that the adult social care system is facing a funding shortfall this year, councillor David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing board, said: “Despite a 28 per cent funding cut from government, spending on adult services this year is expected to fall by just 2.5 per cent, the lowest for any service area. We can’t make the same savings twice and finding solutions that don’t impact on the services we can deliver to elderly and vulnerable residents is going to become increasingly difficult.”

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