This article is authored by Alexander Terry, Public Law Solicitor

In March 2021, Newcastle City Council (NCC) approved £40m of cuts to public services over two years. This includes cuts of £13.2 million to Adult Social Care and Integrated Services and £6.4 million in relation to Children, Education & Skills.[1] At the same time, the council has imposed the maximum 3% rise in the adult social care precept as part of an overall 4.95% rise in council tax for 2021/2022.

These cuts to the budget for essential public services, while said to be necessary as a result of the budgetary pressures created by Covid-19, form part of a continued reduction in public spending for the Newcastle City Council area. By 2022 NCC is reported to have reduced overall spending by £327 million since austerity began in 2010.[2] 

Considering this most recent budget, the Council’s own Health Scrutiny Committee expressed doubts about whether this budget took into account pre-existing trends and predictable overspends, expressing concern about reliance on temporary funding sources, particularly for children and adult social care.[3] 

 It is understood that NCC intend to make savings in Adult Social Care by focusing efforts on providing home care and remodelling care home services, expected to save £4m – a figure which is put into doubt by the Health Scrutiny committee.[4] It is also understood that the local authority intend to meet the increasing demand for services by using one-off, temporary funding streams. The Council Cabinet accept this is not a sustainable model to meet the demand for these essential public services in the long term. [5]

Our comment

We are deeply concerned by the drastic and unsustainable budget cuts for essential social care services for adults and children in the Newcastle area. Many people who rely on these services are typically some of the most vulnerable in society. Sadly it appears inevitable that Adult and Children’s Social Care and related services in the Newcastle area are likely to suffer as a result of these cuts. This forms part of a deepening national social care crisis.

Under the Care Act 2014, local authorities are responsible for meeting the eligible care and support needs of people in their area, including the needs of carers. Care and support include things such as washing, dressing, cooking, eating, getting to work or volunteering or activities and taking part in daily life.

In meeting those needs, a local authority has a duty to promote the relevant individual’s wellbeing. Wellbeing includes a range of factors - not just physical and mental health, but issues such as dignity, social and economic wellbeing, engagement in work and education, suitability of accommodation and the personal and family relationships of the individual. A local authority must also consider wishes and feelings, beliefs and views of the person being assessed.

Significant cuts to Adult and Children’s Social Services inevitably make it harder for the local authority to meet the eligible needs of those in their area. The cuts put pressure on those responsible for commissioning care to drive costs down. On an individual level, this impacts upon the quality and availability of care, and the extent to which a person’s wellbeing can be promoted within the resources available. Nevertheless, a local authority must continue to meet its statutory duties set down by Parliament, even where there is a shortfall in funding from central Government which makes that difficult to deliver. 

Where there are deficiencies with the care and support that a person is receiving, there are ways to challenge decisions made by a local authority. This includes the statutory complaints process, complaining to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and, as a last resort, judicial review – a form of legal proceedings for challenging decisions of the state. This might be necessary when, for example:

  • The local authority refuses to undertake an assessment of a person’s needs;
  • An assessment isn’t carried out in a timely manner;
  • There is there is a dispute about the outcome of an assessment;
  • The existing care package does not or no longer meets a person’s needs;
  • There is a reduction to a person’s care package.

It is also possible challenge decisions relating to charging for social care, who provides the care and support and how a person’s care is arranged and paid for. Legal challenges can be raised by individuals to ensure the council is complying with their statutory duties, equality law and human rights law.

If you believe that that the local authority is not meeting your needs or the needs of a friend or relative, or you are not being supported adequately as a carer to someone with care needs, you should consider seeking legal advice.

The Care Act also requires local authorities to help prevent people from developing care and support needs. Preventative services are those which likely to be first targeted following cuts, where a local authority is under increased budgetary pressure to meet the immediate needs of those in the area. If there are proposed cuts to local services in your area, it may be possible to challenge this.

Irwin Mitchell are a national firm of solicitors with offices across the UK, including Newcastle. Our Public Law and Human Rights team specialise in health and social care law and are nationally recognised for their expertise. We advise and support disabled and vulnerable adults and children and organisations in challenges against local authorities and health care providers in cases relating to their care and support arrangements, cuts to services and unlawful policies.


[1] Table 6 https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s167339/7.5%20Appendix%201%20-%20Revenue%20and%20capital%20plan%202021-22.pdf)

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-47484040#:~:text=Newcastle%20City%20Council%20will%20reduce,do%20to%20protect%20frontline%20services.  First para: https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s167336/7.2%20Cabinet%20response%20to%20Scrutiny%20February%202020.pdf)

[3] https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s167334/7.%20Medium-term%20plan%20cover.pdf

[4] 3.11 https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s167335/7.1%20Scrutiny%20report%20to%20Cabinet%20February%202020.pdf

[5] “Responding to 3.9” page3 https://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s167336/7.2%20Cabinet%20response%20to%20Scrutiny%20February%202020.pdf)