QUESTIONS have been raised about millions of pounds left unspent from the health and social care budget this year.

Labour councillors said the £13.7million underspend in 2020/21, outlined in the annual report by the chief social worker last month, had impacted services.

Councillor John Mooney said the figures included more than £1m for mental health services and £2.3m for older people health and community care services.

He said: “The underspend in health and social care service during the pandemic was just short of £14m so it is self-evident that this would have had an impact on the services that we had planned to provide.

“The £1m underspend represents 10 per cent of the total mental health services budget.

“We have cut our spending on mental health during the pandemic year at the same time as demand for services has increased.”

Leven ward councillor John Millar said the withdrawal of services at the start of the pandemic was only supposed to be temporary.

He said: “We need to see our health and social care services recovering which should include restoring services and responding to unmet need in our communities.

“The public health emergency also meant we had a backlog of occupational therapy assessments which meant that elderly and disabled residents could not get the necessary mobility aids and adaptations as quick as they might want to."

Beth Culshaw, chief officer of West Dunbartonshire HSCP, said: "One of the challenges posed by the pandemic is that the HSCP, like many other sectors, faced increased staff absences due to illness, shielding and isolating.

"During the pandemic, West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership strived to ensure services continued to be delivered to those with significant or critical need.

"Early in the pandemic families who had a family member receiving care at home services were offered the opportunity of providing the care themselves. This would not only assist the HSCP with potential staff shortages but also reduce the risk to the cared for individual by avoiding having potentially numerous carers coming into their home.

"In a small number of cases, families took up this opportunity.

"Over the course of the pandemic contact has been maintained with all clients and where needs or circumstances have changed we have responded with the service needed.

"Early in the pandemic, in order to protect staff and the most vulnerable members of our community, service needs were assessed and only urgent or critical services were delivered. This is no longer the case."