A cost-cutting local authority is set to force more disabled people into residential care, rather than paying for them to receive support in their own homes.
Disabled activists have reacted furiously to the proposals by Worcestershire County Council which are now subject to a three-month consultation and are expected to save £200,000 in the first year.
Under the plans, new service-users – or existing service-users whose needs change – who have a support package where the costs exceed a certain limit will be told to either meet the shortfall themselves, find a cheaper means of support – perhaps by using direct payments – or “receive their care in a residential or nursing home”.
A council spokesman told Disability News Service that “home or community care packages” would be the “most cost effective and appropriate option” in some cases, but he added: “It is about meeting those eligible assessed care needs in the most cost-effective way for everyone who has a call on the council’s budget.”
He denied that the Conservative-run council would be “forcing people into residential homes” and claimed the policy was about “working with service-users to find the most suitable and cost-effective way of meeting their assessed eligible care needs”.
The proposals came as the government’s Queen’s speech appeared to signal further delays to the reform of long-term funding of adult social care, as campaigners such as the disabled peers Baroness [Jane] Campbell and Lord [Colin] Low warned that the system was “chronically under-funded”.
Linda Burnip, a steering group member of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said the council’s proposals were “totally unacceptable”.
She said: “If any single council can get away with this sort of thing, it will just cause a domino effect and all councils will try and do it.
“It is totally against the UN Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] and the rights of disabled people.”
In a joint statement, DPAC and the Social Work Action Network said the plans would see the “abandonment of a crucial right that disabled people have fought for and won: to be socially included rather than ghettoised or institutionalised”.
They said there was “no possible justification for this kind of social policy which is prepared to sacrifice quality of life and people’s rights at the altar of ‘current financial challenges’”.
Sue Bott, director of development and lead on co-production for Disability Rights UK, said the proposals were “a very real threat to disabled people”.
She said there now seemed to be a “free-for-all”, with councils taking ever harsher steps to cut spending on support, and no sign of any government action to stop them.
Councillor Philip Gretton, the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for adult social care, said it was a “difficult proposal” but had to be “viewed in the context of the current financial challenges we face”.
10 May 2012