Government sidelines DPOs in social care ‘engagement exercise’


The government appears to have sidelined disabled people’s organisations from a crucial “engagement” exercise aimed at hearing the views on social care reform of service-users, carers and those working in the care industry.

The Department of Health (DH) has appointed “key leaders” from the “care and support community” to help it lead discussions through the three-month Caring For Our Future engagement exercise.

But three of the seven figures are from charities, two represent local authorities, one is a GP, while the seventh is from the Association of British Insurers. None of them are from a disabled people’s or user-led organisation.

Each of the seven will lead discussions on a certain theme, such as personalisation of care, quality of care, and shaping local care services.

The DH said it wanted to hear the views of service-users, carers, local councils, care providers and the voluntary sector as part of the engagement exercise.

But Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, said she was surprised and concerned by the omission of user-led organisations.

She said: “Obviously there is no service-user representative whatsoever. We will be doing our best to provide opportunities for DH to listen to what we have got to say and what our members have got to say.”

She said she was concerned that there had not yet been any information from DH as to how it would ensure it heard from service-users and carers.

DH plans to publish a social care white paper next spring, alongside a “progress report” on funding reform.

A DH spokesman said the seven care and support leads would be supported by a “reference group team”, whose members will be drawn from across the sector, and that “involving service-users will be a core part of that process”.

He said DH wanted to “work collaboratively” and draw on existing networks and experience.

But details of how the reference groups will be drawn up have yet to be announced and DH was unable to explain why no user-led organisations were represented among the leads and whether service-users would definitely be part of the reference groups.

Asked why no information had been released on how it would ensure it heard from service-users, the DH spokesman said the teams would be attending events, holding meetings, and listening to the views of user-led groups and other organisations on “what the priorities for improving care and support should be”, while the DH website would “contain discussion materials and a feedback form”.

Disability News Service revealed concerns in July that the government appeared to have abandoned plans to include funding reforms in the white paper.

Those concerns followed the publication of the Dilnot report on the funding of care and support, and the Law Commission’s report – published in May – on reforming adult social care law.

Meanwhile, the Commons health select committee has announced its own inquiry into the issues facing the government as it prepares its adult social care white paper. The deadline for submitting written evidence to the committee is noon on 26 October.

And the Care Quality Commission has published its annual report on the state of health and social care in England.

The report says there is evidence that local authorities are tightening their eligibility criteria, “in the face of social care budget reductions and demographic pressures”.

15 September 2011