MPs call for action on ‘underfunded’ social care system


The social care system is “chronically underfunded” and fails to support many disabled people with less severe needs, according to a new report by a committee of MPs.

The Commons health committee’s social care report, published today (Friday), says the system fails to focus enough on the needs and aspirations of individual service-users, and is “severely rationed, locally variable, too often of poor quality and discriminates against older people”.

The report calls on political parties to stop their “pre-election bickering” and warns that if they fail to reach agreement early in the next parliament on reforming adult social care they would “betray current and future generations”.

The report also calls for a debate on whether social care should be provided free of charge and funded through higher taxes, as many disabled campaigners have called for.

And the committee warns that the move towards personalisation of services “must not be seen as a cost-saving exercise”.

Last month, Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People warned that some local authorities could be using the process of personalisation as a cover for funding cuts – similar warnings were made by at least two witnesses who gave evidence to the committee’s inquiry.

The new report also warns that the lack of funding for information, advice and advocacy is “a significant obstacle” to personalisation, and that people should not have to fund such services from their own care and support budgets.

And it repeats concerns about possible government plans to scrap attendance allowance (AA) and disability living allowance (DLA) for those over 65 and merge the savings into social care funding.

Although the government has promised there would be “no cash losers” among existing recipients of AA and DLA, the report says that some people who “develop a care need in future could be worse off than they would have been under the current system”, a view confirmed by evidence from a Department of Health civil servant.

Meanwhile, new figures suggest that many local authorities are planning major cuts to their adult social care budgets in the next financial year.

The survey by The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy heard from 39 of the 175 English councils with social services responsibilities.

Of those 39, nearly three-fifths (59 per cent) were planning to cut spending on adult social care, and by an average of 7.1 per cent.

10 March 2010

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