Health and care groups have issued a new warning about the care of elderly and disabled people in England, with fears that essential services are in jeopardy because of ongoing budget cuts.
In an unprecedented call, a number of organisations supporting older and disabled people, including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), issued a joint submission to the Treasury asking for the UK government to safeguard funding for the care sector.
They have warned how year-on-year budget cuts since 2010 have threatened the dignity of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
A Deepening Crisis
The submission described the care market as "fragile" as budget cuts force councils to freeze fees and care providers to leave the industry.
In what was described as a “deepening crisis”, the submission warned that more and more care homes will close unless the Government acts swiftly to release new funds into the sector.
Warnings of a growing unmet need for essential care services were also given with a call for care funding to be protected. The Government has pledged an extra £8bn a year for the NHS by 2020 but social care has received no such assurances.
Only the poorest receive help with paying for residential care or care in their own home and less and less of them are receiving any help at all. Only 1.3 million elderly and disabled people received social care funding last year, down by half a million from 2009 to 2014.
With the submission predicting substantial rises in the number of people needing care services, it’s clear that the Government must release funds urgently to ensure access to essential services for all those who need them.
The Care Act and Budget Cuts
In a response to the submission, the Government said that plans were being put in place to ensure greater joint working between the NHS and the care sector.
They are referring, of course, to the Care Act which was introduced earlier this year to restructure how social care and support for elderly and disabled people, and their carers, is assessed, planned and funded.
The Act envisages greater cooperation between the NHS and local authorities and joint care provision.
People can now drive the direction of their own care assessment and planning, with local authorities under a duty to ensure that a person’s wellbeing is at the centre of all it does. Such a new way of thinking about social care provision is very welcome, but it’s hard to see how any new system of cooperative working will flourish if budgets continue to be slashed – something that the signatories of the submission also pointed out, saying that they still feared for the future.
To echo the words of Frank Ursell of the Care Providers Alliance, which was also involved in the submission "Doing nothing is simply not an option if this country is to honour its obligations to older people and adults of all ages with mental health problems and disabilities."
The Government owes it to them to ensure they get access to the essential services they need so they can live their lives with dignity and with their human rights – including their right to respect and family life – protected.
Liz Perry is a solicitor in Slater and Gordon’s Court of Protection team who specialises in community care and mental capacity law.
To speak with a Human Rights Solicitor about any of the issues raised in this blog, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.