A disabled campaigner has painted a stark picture of the psychological and financial impact of the system of charging for care and support services, as he gave evidence to a committee of MPs.
Kevin Caulfield told the Commons health and social care committee, during an online evidence session, that disabled people had been raising these issues for at least 20 years.
Caulfield (pictured), who is strategic lead for co-production for Hammersmith and Fulham council, but was not speaking on behalf of the council, told MPs on the committee that it “just cannot be right” that disabled people face ever-increasing costs the higher their support needs are.
He highlighted how disabled people who find themselves needing support to live independently instead face the “additional burdens” of having to “navigate the system” and deal with the charging and assessment process.
He said this causes feelings of being “other” and “different” and “a burden” and “expensive”.
Caulfield said: “The financial assessment process is often demeaning, it comes at a point in people’s lives where people need support and peace and tranquillity, and instead what happens is you move further and further away from that.”
He added: “If we are really interested in developing a national care and support service that meets people’s needs, these things really need to be taken into consideration.
“These are all issues that disabled people have been raising for 20 years or more, so they are not new.”
Five years ago, Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham became the only local authority in England to abolish all charges for disabled people living independently in the community.
This only came about through years of campaigning by disabled people – including Caulfield and Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts, who highlighted, for example, how people were being charged £12.40 for the right to have a shower.
Caulfield said the previous regime of charging in Hammersmith and Fulham and the need for a financial assessment just “based on who you are” caused a “tremendous negative psychological impact” for disabled people who had to undergo the system.
He said the imposition of charging “plays a huge part” in disabled people deciding to stop using council support, particularly those from disadvantaged communities, while others fall into debt.
He told the committee: “It absolutely cannot be acceptable in the 21st century that people are falling into debt paying for the support they need.”
He also quoted the independent living campaigner and disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who chairs the Independent Living Strategy Group.
She said: “The support provided under the Care Act is meant to improve the well-being and independence of disabled people.
“By charging many for that support, the system is making a mockery of the support of that legislation and causing worry, stress and poverty.
“Charging raises a relatively small amount of money, which pushes up costs elsewhere.”
Without the necessary funding for the social care system, she said, the NHS faces extra costs in dealing with the impact of “personal care neglect”, such as pressure sores, kidney infections, falls and stress-related illness.
Caulfield was taking part in the final evidence session of the committee’s inquiry into the social care funding needed over the next five years, shortages in the social care workforce, and the long-term reforms needed to social care funding.
The committee is chaired by Jeremy Hunt, who is blamed by many for failing to address the social care funding crisis when he was health secretary and then health and social care secretary between 2012 and 2018.
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