Disabled people face ‘extreme risk of harm’ without sharp rise in care funding

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More than half of people (58 per cent) who receive care and support services in England have seen their quality of life fall in the last year, according to a new survey by a disabled-led expert group.

A similar survey carried out last year found 45 per cent said their quality of life had fallen over the previous year.

The survey has been carried out by the Independent Living Strategy Group (ILSG) – chaired by the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell – and published by the charity in Control, and focuses on the impact of cuts to social care on people’s independence and basic human rights.

Baroness Campbell (pictured) said the survey proves that increased social care funding is needed to prevent disabled people from an “extreme risk” of harm and help develop a “radically” new system that “positively” supports independence and well-being.

The survey has been published in the run-up to the chancellor’s autumn statement later this month.

A quarter of those questioned said they had been told by their local authority in the last 12 months that their support packages would be reduced because of cuts or savings*.

Baroness Campbell told Disability News Service (DNS): “If we don’t properly invest in our care and support system now, deeper cuts to people’s individual support are inevitable year-on-year, as the population increases.

“This lack of investment is already having expensive financial and moral consequences, as our 2016 survey reveals.”

Meanwhile, the Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust concluded in a new report this week that cuts and rising demand will leave adult social care facing a £1.9 billion funding gap next year.

And the Local Local Government Ombudsman said in its annual report into adult social care complaints that it had seen a 25 per cent rise in complaints about home care – 65 per cent of which were upheld – as well as a six per cent increase in complaints and enquiries about all areas of adult social care (to 2,969).

Baroness Campbell says in the ILSG report that the survey aimed to discover whether the Care Act 2014 – potentially the “most exciting, creative and positive move forward in the history of local authority care and support services” – was “working in practice”.

But the group warned that these duties had been imposed on local authorities at a time of “unprecedented cuts to their funding”, with adult social care departments forced into budget savings of 26 per cent over four years, the equivalent of £3.53 billion.

A third of respondents (33 per cent) said that their level of choice and control over their support had fallen in the previous year, compared with just under 30 per cent in last year’s survey.

And almost two out of five respondents (38 per cent) said they were having to rely more on family and friends for support, while more than a quarter (27 per cent) said they were having to pay more towards the cost of their support.

Of the 95 people responding to the survey who previously received money from the Independent Living Fund (ILF), more than two-fifths (41 per cent) said the amount of support they received had fallen since ILF’s closure in June 2015, while nearly a third (32 per cent) said the quality of their day-to-day support had worsened since it closed.

Baroness Campbell told DNS: “Our strategy group believes that extra funding is not simply required to prevent older and disabled people from extreme risk, but urgently needed to develop a radically new system which positively supports people’s independence and well-being.

“After all, this was supposed to be the central aim of the government’s Care Act, which has yet to deliver.”

She said the survey showed that councils were now placing “severe restrictions” on how people can use personal budgets or direct payments.

She said: “This is counter to the Care Act’s aim, which is to empower local authorities to give more choice and control over how support is delivered.

“They said they have no choice due to the funding shortage.

“Shockingly, half of respondents reported that support now is only available for very basic personal care – an indication that people who need support are often condemned to a very limited existence.”

The report was released just four days before the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities published a report that concluded that the UK government had committed “grave or systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights, including actions that “have hindered various aspects of their right to live independently and be included in the community” under article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Baroness Campbell said the survey demonstrated why the government had been found to be “failing miserably” in its responsibilities under article 19 of the convention.

About half of ILSG are disabled people, and many represent disabled people’s organisations or user-led grassroots groups, including the Spartacus network, Shaping Our Lives, Inclusion London, Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People and Disability Rights UK.

The survey was based on responses from 485 people who have support in England, including people who fund their own care, with the vast majority of the responses coming from service-users under the age of 65.

*91 of the 363 survey respondents who answered this question said they had been told their support (or the money available for their support) would be reduced because of cuts or savings

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