Headlines: February 20th, 2008

People not receiving support from councils are struggling with a poor quality of life, says the Commission for Social Care Inspection. The Commission’s report on the State of Social Care describes how those who qualify for council support are having a better experience than before, while those people who fall outside the system are having a poor quality experience and are struggling to cope.

People who only five years ago qualified for council-arranged help are today excluded by the system and left to fend for themselves. Since 1997, the numbers of households receiving supported home care has fallen from 479,000 to 358,000 in 2006. The report describes how informal arrangements can break down at short notice. People unable to rely on families or friends and unable to pay for care services themselves are simply left to cope with everyday life, while some become virtually trapped in their own home.

Local councils increasingly restrict help to people with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs.Although councils use a national set of rules to decide who is eligible for support, the report shows that who does or doesn’t get help varies not only between but also within the same council.

The report describes how many people were surprised that social services were unable to offer any assistance, particularly where they were just coping but with obvious difficulty. People judged ineligible for social services support are typically signposted to other services. This often leaves them to take the initiative in following up other leads for themselves, and for some people the signposts lead to a dead end where they remain with no further assistance.

All six councils involved in the study had to make significant judgments about how they rationed their resources. None of the councils was happy with the situation and those that had gone furthest down the rationing route acknowledged this was an ultimately self-defeating solution which was unsustainable.

The Commission views the Government’s proposed Green Paper on long term care funding as an opportunity to establish a fair and sustainable social care system where people, whether they pay for their own care or not, as a minimum get good advice, an assessment of their situation, and access to high quality services.