Headlines: January 11th, 2007



A report into the state of social care services in England says more families have to find and pay for their own care because local councils are having to restrict services to those people who have the greatest needs. The thrust of the report from the Commission for Social Care Inspection has been welcomed by Directors of Social Services who say its further evidence of the fact that services are facing increasing demand while resources are dwindling. Local authority leaders, meanwhile, called for a serious debate on how social care needs are to be paid for.

The report, the second annual overview of the whole of the social care sector found that more services are meeting the required standards but that in spite of spending more money, local authorities are tightening their rules on who qualifies for state-funded social care. The Association of Directors of Social Services said the report entirely complemented and confirmed the messages that have emerged from its own research and that by the Local Government Association, the Wanless Report and other studies by the polling organisation, MORI. ADSS president John Coughlan said, “Social care services for elderly people, people with disabilities and children are faced with growing need, increasing number of elders in our population, and a dwindling amount of money with which to fund them.”

Mr. Coughlan accepted that there was room for improvement in services but added, “The CSCI has accepted that we have got a lot better at what we do over recent years. We respect this evidence of significant, sustained improvement, that higher standards are being met and that more people are beginning to use personalised budgets. We only regret that financial pressures mean we have to offer these high standards of care and support to fewer people than we should like to.”

The Local Government Association called the report a ‘wake up call for the Government.’ David Rogers, who chairs its Community Wellbeing Board, said the report exposed deeply worrying trends in social care and said there should be a serious debate about how the care needs of an aging population were funded. “Support for services such as social care through the general grant has increased by just 14 per cent since 1997-98. Council tax payers, including millions of older people, have had to pick up the tab and they simply cannot afford to pay any more,” he said.

The Commission’s report said that as local councils supported fewer people, informal carers would have to fill in the gaps, with inadequate support structures to help them and no system in many areas to help them find the services they needed. People who had no-one to rely on would have to make do without support until their situation became critical. Commission 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.”

The report found that the proportion of people over 65 was growing and that the number of young disabled people was also going up. Recent projections also indicated that over the next 20 years there would be a 53 per cent rise in the number of older people with some care needs, and a rise of 54 per cent in older people with a high level of need. The report also highlighted continuing problems in recruiting and retaining high quality qualified staff, the underdevelopment of the marketplace for social care providers and the impact of organisational turbulence in the health service and local authority structures for children’s and adults’ services.