Minister’s ‘insult to injury’ snub to DPOs over social care round table

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Government ministers are facing criticism after organising a “round table” event on the future of working-age social care without inviting any disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) to attend.

The failure to invite DPOs emerged after the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell had asked the government to extend the scope of its green paper on older people’s social care to include working-age disabled people with care needs.

The green paper was announced in November, but it frustrated campaigners when the government revealed that it would examine the care needs of older people, while “a parallel programme of work” would look at working-age disabled people.

Baroness Campbell (picturedtold fellow peers this week that the “proposed parallel process” was “simply not acceptable when half of social care spending now goes on working-age disabled people”, a concern she raised this week through the website PoliticsHome.

She said: “Please will the minister confirm that both older and younger disabled people will receive parity of status and attention from the government?”

But the junior health and social care minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said only that “a parallel programme of work is going on” and that the government was “giving the issue equal seriousness, as it deserves”.

And he said that the care minister, Caroline Dinenage, would soon be co-chairing an “important” round table “with Mencap, Scope and others”.

It was only when the Conservative peer Lord Cormack suggested that Baroness Campbell should be invited to join the round table that Lord O’Shaughnessy said he would “do everything that I can to encourage” Dinenage to invite her.

Baroness Campbell later said on Twitter: “Pleased my friend on the Conservative bench requested I get invited to the round table on the future of social care [but there will be]no DPO represented!!”

She told Disability News Service this morning (Thursday): “I am deeply worried about the lack of focus on younger disabled people in social care, so want to keep the pressure up on government to do something about this.”

She said she was pleased that Lord Cormack had asked for her to be invited to join the round table.

She added: “If I do, I can then insist DPOs are centrally involved. We must demand the government do this now, at the start and not as an afterthought or placatory one-off round table.”

Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “I am grateful to Baroness Campbell for asking the question which I think gets to the heart of what is wrong with the current debate, or should I say non-debate, about social care. 

“It seems extraordinary that government should virtually ignore the group of people, younger disabled people, who account for 51 per cent of the annual spend on social care. 

“It really is not an adequate response to say ‘yes, but we are having a little roundtable’ and to add insult to injury, not involve disabled people or our organisations. 

“It suggests that for government it’s just about the money: how much money can they get away with taking from older people and leave younger disabled people to keep paying for their social care from their benefits.”

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokeswoman refused to confirm that no DPO had been invited to the round table, or say when it was taking place, or even confirm if Baroness Campbell would now be added to the list of attendees.

But she said that the round table would discuss the priorities for the “parallel work stream on working age adults with care needs”, which is being jointly led by DHSC and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

She said in a statement: “The government is currently developing plans for engaging stakeholders in the work on working age adults with care needs that is running in parallel to the social care green paper.

“We will ensure that the views of a range of people who use social care services, including adults with disabilities, closely informs this work as it progresses.”

Labour’s health spokeswoman in the Lords, Baroness Thornton, had told fellow peers during the short debate that she agreed with Baroness Campbell’s concerns about working-age people.

She said that evidence of a social care crisis was in “the regression of opportunity and care for young disabled people, which is there to see in personal cases where people are not receiving the sort of support that they need”.

She said: “Will the minister explain how the government will achieve their target of one million more disabled people being in work by 2027 if they cannot get out of bed and travel to work without help because of this combination of cuts and the stalling of a coherent support policy to make that possible?”

Lord O’Shaughnessy said more disabled people were finding work, while DHSC had increased spending on the disabled facilities grant.

He said: “That is about making sure that disabled people can live at home and have their independence, which of course is critical to maintaining their physical health and confidence to make them, in a way, ready to go into work.”