A SOCIAL services boss has been challenged on whether a reduction in the hours people have been left without care is a result of stricter eligibility. 

Monmouthshire County Council has reported that the number of hours it failed to provide care at home reduced to 834 a week in the last year, compared to a peak of more than 2,000 hours the previous year. 

But Cllr Peter Strong asked if, rather than the council managing to provide more care at home, the reduction was a result of it tightening the eligibility criteria as the service has struggled with a £2.7 million overspend on adult care. 

The Labour councillor for Rogiet asked at a scrutiny committee: “Last week we heard unmet care had reduced from 2,000 hours to 800 and it seemed to be a great success, but is it? We’ve had more care hours provided or is it people in the past, who would have qualified for care packages, are now ruled out? If that is the case are we not failing to serve the most vulnerable as per our corporate plan and responsibilities?” 

Cllr Strong also said he is also concerned tightening financial controls mean social workers were tied up in panel meetings “rather than out doing frontline social work”. 

Jane Rodgers, the council’s social care chief, said: “Unmet care is not straightforward but we feel the reduction in unmet hours for home care is, on balance, more a success story than anything else.” 

She said available care hours have increased but social services managers have also been reviewing care packages and ensuring eligibility is assessed in a “fair and equitable way” across the county. 

She said: “That does mean for some people there may be a reduction in what they had before or new packages set up are not as hefty as previously.” 

Reablement teams also work with people to help them remain mobile and live as independently as possible, reducing their need for care and long term needs, said Ms Rodgers. 

She also said she would look into concerns social workers are having to spend too much time in meetings, which she should be done by management. She also said care decisions are taken at individual level and her experience that was as staff become used to the changes it becomes “a much quicker, slicker process”. 

A council report stated it was originally intended to save £80,000 from reducing care packages, following a pilot in central Monmouthshire, and that it is “tracking the total number of people in receipt of care at home against the total number of care hours delivered”. 

Cllr Strong also asked why only £140,000 savings had been achieved against a target of £500,000 on care the authority believes should be funded by the NHS as “continuing health care” rather than from its funds. 

Ms Rodgers said only those that had got “across the line” had been marked as achieved and she said staff are able to draw on support from a “local” colleague – based in the council – and two regional workers to make a case for the NHS to accept care costs.