Care bill ‘means little without new funding’


newslatestThe government’s new care bill is unlikely to have a major impact on disabled people’s lives and well-being unless significant new funding is found, say campaigners.

They spoke out as members of the all party parliamentary disability group (APPDG) held a seminar on the bill, which has just finished its passage through the Lords and will soon be debated in the Commons for the first time.

The bill aims to modernise care and support legislation in England and replace the current complex web of laws.

The bill also aims to prioritise the “wellbeing” of individuals, and introduce a new funding system based on the recommendations of the Dilnot commission on the funding of long-term care, including a cap on lifetime costs for eligible needs.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, co-chair of the APPDG, who was not able to attend the seminar, has previously warned fellow peers that independent living for disabled people could become “just a memory” if the government did not put enough money into the social care system.

Among changes to the bill made in the Lords, Baroness Campbell persuaded the government to provide freedom of movement for disabled people with care and support packages (known as “portability”).

And her fellow disabled peer Lord [Colin] Low defeated the government with an amendment securing protection under the Human Rights Act for disabled and older people in private sector and charity-run residential homes.

But the seminar heard that Lord Low’s amendment could be at risk of being overturned by the coalition in the Commons.

Several speakers repeated Baroness Campbell ‘s warning that the care bill would have little or no impact if the government did not invest significant sums of money into the care and support system.

Sue Brown, vice-chair of the Care and Support Alliance, said that although it was not mentioned directly, it was “impossible to have a discussion about the bill without talking about the funding of social care”.

She added: “This bill cannot prevent local authorities from failing to deliver if they do not have sufficient funding… There is not something magic about a piece of legislation that can create money where there is none.”

John Nawrockyi, director of adult social services for Greenwich council and co-chair of the physical disabilities network for the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said the bill came at a time when there were “multiple impacts on disabled people arising from welfare reform”, while council services were being squeezed.

He said: “The challenge towards allocation of resources will not be affected. We will still have to ration.”

Conan Doyle, a member of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), told the seminar that the incidence of rickets and other conditions caused by vitamin deficiency was increasing because parents could not afford to feed their children.

The chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, suggested last month that the rising incidence of the disease should be tackled with free vitamin supplements for all under-fives.

Doyle said: “How can we possibly say we are trying to care for people when we are funding a generation who will be disabled because of their sheer poverty?”

Anne McGuire, co-chair of the all party group, and until last month Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, added: “Who would have thought we would be discussing rickets in the first years of the 21st century?”

After the seminar, Andy Greene, a member of the steering group of DPAC – which has until now concentrated mostly on cuts to social security and the Independent Living Fund (ILF) – said they were likely to focus much more now on local authority social care funding.

He said that the resource allocation system – which decides how high your support needs must be to secure council funding – in the London borough of Islington had been tightened eight times in the last 18 months.

He said: “Personalisation in language is happening. In reality, people are being cut off from each other and budgets are being slashed.”

Henrietta Doyle, policy officer for Inclusion London, said the bill would “not become meaningful unless the government addresses the whole question of funding”.

Ellen Clifford, another member of the DPAC steering group, said that individual disabled people would need to take judicial reviews against local authorities that failed to fulfil their new well-being duty when the bill became law.

But she said the government’s legal aid reforms and cuts would make that virtually impossible.

Andrew Lee, director of People First Self Advocacy, said he believed that people with lower or moderate learning difficulties were “screwed”, because they were “not going to get any support at all”.

He said: “The collective view is that there needs to be a recognition that the funding and support structures need to be brought into the 21st century.”

6 November 2013