The State of Social Care

Last week the Commission of Social Care Inspection published its annual report into the state of social care in England. It found that more services are meeting minimum standards, but despite spending more, councils are tightening local rules about who qualifies for state-funded social care.

This means that more and more older and disabled people either have to find and pay for their own support / assistance or rely on family members or friends.As local councils support fewer people, informal unpaid carers have to fill in the gaps, with inadequate support structures to help them and no system in many areas to help people find the services they need.Those who have no one to rely on may have to make do without support until their situation becomes critical.

CSCI Chair Dame Denise Platt said:“Social care services in England are gradually getting better, but only for those people who manage to qualify for help. As councils face an increase in the number of older and disabled people and in the costs of care, many have responded by raising the threshold people have to pass before they are entitled to a council-funded service. As a result, irrespective of the quality of social care services, fewer people are receiving services.Those who do qualify for care have a high level of need.”

The options for people who do not meet the criteria set by their local council are limited. In some cases, people rely on friends and family members. In others, they pay for their own care. Some people have no option but to do without.

“It is also clear that external pressures on the sector are hindering progress in making services better for the people who use them. In particular, NHS budget deficits in some areas are putting a strain on relationships at local level and potentially undermining essential partnerships in both adult and children’s services.”

The report also found that although there has been a substantial increase in the numbers of people using direct payments, these are very small compared to overall numbers of people who use social care services. Pilots for individual budgets are shifting traditional views on how to provide support, but lessons are yet to be learned prior to any national roll-out. Most people, including those who fund their own care, are not yet in a position to exert pressure on the care market and alter the local ‘menu’ of services.

The report had particular concern for the various groups including:

1. Those people who are not using services arranged by the council but who seek support and good information about what may be available. As yet, there is limited evidence as to whether people are successfully directed to alternative and appropriatesupport or properly informed about the options open to them.

2. Carers, unpaid relatives and friends who are bearing the costs of ever-tighter eligibility criteria for services.

3. People who have little, if any, choice and control over the services they use. There are still too many people who are offered little, if any, choice of services; nor do they have any choice as to who comes into the privacy of their homes to provide assistance and when and how support is provided. 

CSCI have pledged to examine the impact of tighter eligibility criteria over the next year and SCIL welcomes this move.  This report is yet another signal that both government and society need to seriously examine the future of social care within Britain before things get any worse.

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