Campaigners have questioned the government’s commitment to supporting disabled adults, after it failed to offer any sign that reform of the funding of adult social care was imminent.
The coalition announced in this week’s Queen’s speech, which marks the beginning of the new parliamentary session, that it would bring forward a draft bill “to modernise adult care and support in England”.
The draft care and support bill will follow the publication of a long-awaited care and support white paper, which was due to be published by Easter, but is now expected later this month.
But the Department of Health (DH) confirmed this week that the white paper will not include any proposals on funding reform. Instead, it intends to publish a “progress report” on funding, alongside the white paper.
Sue Bott, director of development and lead on co-production for Disability Rights UK, said the government’s failure was “extremely worrying” and suggested that the reform process was now “back at square one”.
She said the process now “feels like a complete mess”, and added: “What the government is proposing in the draft bill – if it ever appears – will not be the answer if it doesn’t say anything about resources.”
She called for a “completely fresh look at how the support needs of disabled people are going to be met”.
She said: “This is a group of people who are facing more and more cutbacks. What we are hearing every day is that people are being required to live really quite impossible lives.
“What do we have to do to get people in government to understand what is happening to people on a day-to-day basis?”
Linda Burnip, a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “The whole situation with care and support is getting worse and worse.
“We argue that social care funding should be like health funding: it should be paid for through taxation.”
Henrietta Doyle, Inclusion London’s policy officer, said they feared the issue could be “kicked into the long grass again”.
She said: “Without reform of funding and adequately funded social care, no real change is possible.”
Last year, Andrew Dilnot’s Commission on Funding of Care and Support concluded that the current system was “not fit for purpose” and was “confusing, unfair and unsustainable” and needed “additional resources” from the government.
Among its proposals, it suggested free care for all people with “eligible” needs who become disabled before the age of 40, although it didn’t suggest what level of care this would provide.
The draft care and support bill will include the government’s response to last year’s report by the Law Commission on the reform of adult social care law.
DH said in a written briefing that the draft bill would “provide greater clarity and equity of access to care and support”, build on progress with personal budgets and modernise social care law, but it made no mention of funding reform.
In the lead-up to the Queen’s speech, the disabled crossbench peers Baroness [Jane] Campbell and Lord [Colin] Low, and Liz Sayce from Disability Rights UK, were among 85 peers, charity bosses, unions and other organisations who wrote an open letter to the prime minister, calling on him to take forward reform as his “legacy to future generations” and warning that the system was “chronically under-funded”.
Disability News Service has been reporting concerns since last July that the government appeared to have abandoned any plans to include funding reform in the white paper.
10 May 2012