Disabled activists have reacted angrily to the government’s decision to delay reforming the funding of adult care and support.
The Conservative health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said it was an “inescapable conclusion” that final decisions on funding the changes recommended by the government-commissioned Dilnot Commission could only be made as part of the next spending review, expected in 2013 or 2014.
Although the coalition’s decision to delay reforms suggested last July by the commission was no surprise, there was still widespread anger.
Professor Peter Beresford, chair of the user-led Shaping Our Lives network, said social care policy was in an “unbelievably chaotic state”.
He said he was not surprised by the government’s failure to produce a funding solution because it was “ideologically committed to reducing public spending” and was “ruthlessly using the concept of austerity and the public deficit” to justify regressive policies.
He criticised the refusal of politicians from all parties to consider a fully integrated health and social care system that was free at the point of use and funded – in the same way as the NHS – from general taxation.
Members of the WeareSpartacus campaign said further government delay in reforming funding would see more local authorities developing the kind of radical cost-cutting policies that were set to push young disabled people into residential care in Worcestershire.
The disabled-led campaign group published a new report this week into proposals put forward by Worcestershire County Council.
They said the government’s commitments to ensuring disabled people had choice and control over their support – outlined in this week’s white paper – were “well meaning and useless” without a “clear funding source”.
Dr Sarah Campbell, one of the report’s authors, said: “Knowing that the government promotes choice and independence is of little comfort if confronted with compulsory entry into residential care as a young disabled adult with no prospect of returning to the community.
“The government must urgently clarify funding reform so that such proposals do not see the light of day.”
Under Worcestershire’s plans, new service-users – or existing service-users whose needs change – who have a support package where the costs exceed a certain limit will be told to either meet the shortfall themselves, find a cheaper means of support, or “receive their care in a residential or nursing home”.
Many of the social care reforms that were announced by the government did win some support among disabled activists.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell told fellow peers that – “temporarily ignoring the social care funding elephant in the room” – she welcomed much of the content of the white paper.
The disabled crossbench peer said the white paper “concentrates on independent living, empowerment strategies, and supporting people to stay at home and contribute to their communities instead of the current safety-net crisis interventions. That has been my life’s work.”
But she was unable to secure a definitive answer from the Conservative health minister Earl Howe on whether the government’s plans to improve the “portability” of disabled people’s care if they move to another local authority area would guarantee an equivalent level of support from the new council.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK), said the government’s announcements would “progress some much-needed proposals for reform of the social care framework”.
DR UK welcomed the publication of a draft social care bill to replace the current “complex cat’s cradle” of legislation, and the moves towards a more “portable” system of care.
But it said it was “very disappointed” that the government’s announcements failed to address the crucial issue of care funding.
Sayce said: “It is essential to disabled people, older people and carers that the funding of care and support services is resolved as soon as possible.
“The government must set a timeframe to deliver this aim – or will face an explosion in longer-term costs as disabled people are forced to rely on more expensive NHS services or residential care and more disabled people and carers are forced out of work.”
Lawyers for four young disabled people battling cuts to care in west Berkshire welcomed the government’s proposals to introduce a new national eligibility threshold for care and support.
The four young disabled people, all with high support needs, are taking a legal case against West Berkshire Council, one of only three local authorities in England that restricts council-funded care to those with critical needs – the highest of the four eligibility bands.
Anne-Marie Irwin, a public law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, which is representing the four, said: “West Berkshire’s ‘critical only’ policy is an example of why the proposals put forward by the government are so desperately needed.”
12 July 2012