Personal care bill ‘will squeeze services’


Government proposals to offer free personal care at home to disabled people with the highest needs will probably lead to a squeeze on services for those with lower needs, say campaigners.

Deep concerns emerged after the government published its new personal care at home bill, which would provide free care for the estimated 280,000 disabled people in England with “critical” needs.

But £250 million of the estimated £670 million a year costs of the bill – which will also provide intensive “re-ablement” support for around 130,000 people who need home care for the first time – are intended to come from local government “efficiency savings”.

But both the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have raised doubts over whether these savings are achievable.

Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of the disability charity RADAR, said the assumption that councils would “do the right thing” and could make the necessary efficiency savings was “a joke”.

She said: “They will take the money from somewhere else and the somewhere else as likely as not will be other disabled people who are not on the critical list.”

She said she was already deeply concerned about the number of disabled people who were having their care packages “slashed” by councils, putting the jobs of many working age people at risk.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, the disability poverty charity, said he welcomed any bill that provides free care for disabled people.

But he said that if local government did not receive the necessary funding from central government, councils might start reassessing disabled people with critical needs as having “substantial” needs – the next level down – and so not eligible for free care.

Councils might also increase care charges, and cut services such as welfare rights advice.

Coyle said: “Our worry is that some disabled people will be significantly adversely affected by this policy when it should be extremely positive.”

The bill comes, he said, after the government ruled out free personal care for all disabled people – funded by taxation – in July’s care and support green paper, despite public backing for such a policy.

Meanwhile, Lord [Jack] Ashley has introduced his own health and social care (independent living) bill in the Lords.

His bill – backed by a number of disabled people’s organisations, including RADAR – would provide a legal right to independent living, clear rights to independent advocacy, and enforceable entitlements to enough care and support to enable disabled people to live in dignity and contribute widely to society.

26 November 2009