Hampshire County Council warns of 'unprecedented' care cuts threat

image captionCouncil leader Keith Mans said the council had already saved more than £500m

A council has warned that its health and adult social care services face an unprecedented challenge from budget cuts.

Hampshire County Council said its savings target of £43m by the year 2021 would affect frontline services.

The authority plans 120 job cuts, the closure of some residential homes and reduced drug and alcohol services.

Conservative council leader Keith Mans said 10 years of cuts had made future savings "more difficult".

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image captionThe cuts would inevitably affect frontline services, council directors warned

A report by three of the council's directors said the major cost-cutting exercise came at a time of "burgeoning" service demand.

It said: "The savings target will challenge the department like never before, and it is inevitable that there will be impacts on frontline services.

"Savings have already been driven out over the past nine years and the size of the target requires a complete 're-look', with previously discounted options having to be re-considered."

The directors' proposals - approved on Monday for submission to a council meeting in November - include possible residential unit closures and cuts to substance misuse, sexual health and domestic abuse services.

The effects could include more alcohol-related deaths, unwanted pregnancies and less support for victims, they warned.

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image captionHampshire County Council will make final cuts decisions in November

Mental health charity Solent Mind said the cuts could increase future costs.

Chief executive Kevin Gardner told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "Reduced investment in prevention may help balance the books in the short term, but risks a need for more intensive and costly support in future years."

Mr Mans said the government's announcement in September of £1.5bn for social care nationally for one year would provide "much-needed breathing space".

However he said: "It's unlikely to make much difference to our overall medium-term budget position.

"After more than a decade of cost reductions which have delivered savings of almost £0.5bn to date, understandably it's becoming more and more difficult to find opportunities for making deeper savings."

The Department of Health and Social Care said the extra money would support councils to meet rising demand and the government would set out plans "to fix the social care system in due course".

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