Social care in England 'has bleak future on £800m cuts'
Social care in England is facing a bleak future despite planned changes as services have been forced into budget cuts, council chiefs say.
Research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services showed £800m was likely to be taken from the £16bn budget this year.
The group warned it meant "the bleak outlook becomes even bleaker".
It comes as the government looks set to signal later in the Queen's Speech its determination to reform the system.
The draft social care and support bill, which is expected to be included in the speech, will be used to clarify the law on social care and pave the way for the introduction of a cap on the costs people face for elderly care.
Currently anyone with assets of more than £23,250 faces unlimited costs, but ministers have said they want to see lifetime costs capped at £72,000 from 2016.
The result of the move would be that many more people would be brought into the state system. Estimates have suggested an extra 450,000.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the changes to the social care system needed to be made quickly, as the UK faced a "very big challenge" because of its ageing society.
Resorting to rationing
But the ADASS figures, compiled from a survey of directors at 145 of the 152 councils, illustrate the problem councils are facing trying to provide services to the elderly and disabled.
The projected £800m reduction in spending comes after nearly £2bn has been trimmed from budgets in the past two years.
While social care directors said they were trying to make savings through measures such as more efficient working and better procurement, nearly a fifth thought the quality of life that could be provided would worsen in the coming years.
Half said the numbers able to access services would reduce too as councils resorted to rationing.
ADASS president Sandie Keene said: "Gazing into the next two years, without additional investment from that already planned, an already bleak outlook becomes even bleaker."
Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said: "This is very worrying news.
"The care of the most vulnerable in our society is one of the most important issues facing the country."
Zoe Patrick, of the Local Government Association, said taking £800m out of the system "threatens to severely impact on the vital support many older and disabled people rely on in their day-to-day lives, such as basic help with washing, getting out of bed and the provision of meals on wheels".
She added: "The stark reality is that if such vast sums of money continue to be taken out of the care system it could be in very real danger of collapse."
She urged the government to recognise the growing problem in the next spending round.
Mr Hunt said one of the measures that will be announced in the Queen's Speech will help "join up the health and social care system".
"There is a huge amount of waste. Apart from the terrible treatment of people being pushed from pillar to post, it is actually very, very wasteful," he told ITV's Daybreak.
"You have lots of people in hospital who don't need to be in hospital, lots of people who actually shouldn't be going to hospital in the first place, and so we do absolutely need to tackle that big structural thing."