The effect of ongoing budget cuts on access to essential care services in the UK continues to be a hot – but very depressing – topic.
Councils have warned for a number of years how a shortage of funding will affect care provision for those most in need, and I’ve recently blogged how the deepening crisis in the UK care sector is causing care homes to close at a time when a substantial rise in people needing care is predicted.
What’s shocking about the latest revelations is the sheer number of vulnerable people who are being turned away when they ask for help.
Care Services Cut “To the Bare Bones”
According to the latest social care research from the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), local authorities in England received almost 1.85 million requests for social care last year but only 650,000 were approved.
This means almost two-thirds of requests for care by elderly and disabled people are rejected. Vulnerable people who need access to essential care services are being turned away or advised to seek help from charities or the NHS.
Almost half of the people who are given help only get low-level support such as walking aids and telecare. Only 144,000 people – less than 13% of the number of people who seek help from their local authority – receive any form of long-term care, such as a place in a care home or help in their own home with washing, dressing and eating.
The five years prior to 2014 saw a 28% reduction in the number of elderly and disabled people receiving help from their local authority. £4.6bn has been cut from social care budgets since 2010 and the UK’s ageing population will only mean a growing demand for care services in the years to come.
As Janet Morrison from the charity Independent Age puts it, the HSCIC figures paint an "alarming picture of services cut back to the bare bones".
Children with Mental Health Issues
Just a few days after the publication of the HSCIC study came the revelation that an alarming number of children with mental health issues are being denied treatment.
According to an NSPCC report, one in five children who need mental health treatment are refused help. Statistics from 35 Mental Health Trusts across England showed that a total of 39,652 cases referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) were rejected.
Some of the children referred to CAMHS for help have suffered abuse. As NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless says, "If children don’t receive the right kind of help and support following a disclosure, the damage can last a lifetime and can include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or suicidal thoughts in adulthood."
It’s appalling to think that children who have been through some of the most horrific experiences imaginable are not receiving the help they need after they’ve been brave enough to speak out. We must all call upon the UK government once again to urgently release funds into the care sector to ensure that vulnerable children referred to CAMHS do not go on to develop more serious mental health issues because they are denied access to the essential treatment they need.
Liz Perry is a solicitor in Slater and Gordon’s Court of Protection team who specialises in community care and mental capacity law.