Pressures on adult social care in Lewisham have been “unrelenting” in the past six months, according to the director of community services.  

Speaking at a public accounts committee on Wednesday night (November 6), Tom Brown said he was confident the council could underspend this year but had “anxieties” about the budget cuts for next year. 

The council agreed cuts of £4 million from the adult social care budget last week and is planning to underspend by nearly £2 million with the aid of the Government grant. 

But Mr Brown said: “We’ve got no notion of what will happen next year for certain. 

“We are still awaiting the adult social care green paper which is I dread to think how many years overdue. 

“The underlying position for this year is ok but as highlighted in the report … we do have some very real demographic pressures and the associated hospital pressures.” 

He said Lewisham Hospital has been in a “particularly bad state” this week and on ‘black alert’, meaning it was under severe pressure to deal with patient demand. 

Mr Brown said: “They have a green, amber and red rating and then there’s black when they’re not quite sure what to do after red.

“They’ve been on black this week because they’ve had more demand in the emergency department that’s available in the hospital so inevitably they want us to take people out quicker and more dependent.” 

As well as hospital pressures, the number of young people transitioning from children’s services with “very complex needs” is rising in the borough.  

Mr Brown said: “Those particular cases, about 30 a year, not all of whom will be expensive, but by and large a lot of them are expensive, typically equate to £1,500 to £2,000 a week.” 

Each year there is an increase in the numbers of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who transfer to the adult social care services. 

Committee chair Councillor Jim Mallory questioned how the costs of this could be managed.  

He said: “How well equipped do you think you are to bring those particularly complex ones, not so much down, but to manage their placement in a way which, if it doesn’t stop the budget spiralling out of control, certainly makes it slightly less worrying?” 

It emerged that a new joint transitions team between children’s services and adult social care has been formed to be better equipped when young people make the move.  

The team works with teenagers from age 14 and 15 to earlier forecast their needs in the future.  

Mr Brown said: “[The team] is starting to get ahead of the curve in thinking ‘what are they going to need in two or three years time’ rather than realising at 17 and three quarters ‘oh we’ve got somebody who needs something coming through’.”  

He said he was “confident” he could deliver next year but it would not be “plain sailing.”  

He added:  “I have increasing anxieties that the cuts we are making for next year will be a more significant challenge, more so than I would have said had I been here a year ago because the pressures that have surfaced over the last six months or so seem to be unrelenting pressures .”