Headlines: September 21st, 2006



It is claimed today that older people who need access to social care services face a triple lottery based not just on where they live but on how their local authority applies eligibility criteria and the authority’s charging policy. The claim comes with the publication today of a national survey of councils conducted by Counsel and Care, which presents a picture of NHS and social care budgets under increasing pressure.

Today’s report, “National Survey of Local Authority Care Charging and Eligibility Criteria 2006” shows older people facing real difficulty in accessing support in the community unless their needs are very high. Two-thirds of local councils in the survey have set their criteria at the top two levels – substantial or critical need. That, says Counsel and Care, indicates there are many people whose needs are not being met because they fall below that level.

Pressure on both NHS and social services budgets has resulted in a reduction in the number of older people who receive services, according to the study. It also shows that there are high charges for services in some areas. Weekly charges can be up to 315.90 pounds with average hourly charges for services at more than 10 pounds.

Counsel and Care is calling for three main improvements to the system. It wants an increase in funding through the forthcoming spending review and a more strategic approach to the way funds are used; the issue of funding of preventative services to be addressed and more independent advice and information services, which it says are key to older people navigating the social care system.