Number receiving support plunges, even before cuts begin to bite


More than 80 000 fewer disabled and older people received council-funded support services last year, long before the impact of government spending cuts began to bite, according to a new report by the care watchdog.

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) annual State of Care in England report said the number of adults receiving council-funded care dropped by nearly five per cent during 2009-10 – from 1.78 million to 1.7 million – according to estimated government figures.

The report suggests this could be because of the gradual tightening by councils of eligibility for such services.

The CQC report says there were also “significant reductions” in the numbers of people receiving all “major community care services” provided by councils, including support at home, respite care, meals at home, and equipment and adaptations.

Its publication came as a survey by the Care and Support Alliance – whose members include RADAR, the National Centre for Independent Living and Disability Alliance – found nearly a quarter of disabled and older people (and carers speaking on their behalf) said their care services had been cut, even before councils start to implement deep spending cuts in April.

Nearly a quarter of those questioned in the survey – which looked at the impact of changes to people’s services between November 2009 and February 2011 – said they or the person they cared for were not receiving any services, even though they needed support.

More than two-fifths said they found it harder to afford essentials such as food and heating, while more than half had seen their health deteriorate as a result of changes to their services, and more than half said the changes had made it harder to maintain their independence.

The alliance said: “This research shows that significant numbers of families affected by illness and disability are going without the care and support services they need.

“This will only be exacerbated by bigger cuts to come as the government reduces funding to local councils.”

The survey is being sent as evidence to the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, which is due to publish its recommendations this summer.

Meanwhile, the CQC report says the quality of care services has “continued to show further improvement”, with the proportion rated “poor” falling from three per cent in May 2008 to one per cent in April 2010.

But the report raises concerns about the treatment of some people detained under the Mental Health Act, and says many detained patients who were said to have consented to treatment appeared to be refusing to give consent or lacked the capacity to do so.

The report concludes that there have been “major improvements” in social care and health services, but Dame Jo Williams, CQC’s chair, warned that the overall picture was still “far from perfect”.

30 March 2011

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