Guest post from Caroline Hawkings who is a Senior Public Policy Advisor for Social Care at disability charity Scope.
When the draft Care and Support Bill was published last July, there was much to be pleased about. For example, for the first time social care law is modernised into one statute. Importantly, there is an overarching principle to promote ‘well-being’, rights of carers are strengthened and there are new duties on local authorities to provide information and advice.
Since July, Scope, along with other charities in the Care and Support Alliance, has been working hard with policy makers at the Department of Health to make changes to the draft Bill, such as pushing for specific provisions for advocacy. The crucial question is will this Bill be a new improved version, or will it merely be tinkering at the edges? We will have to wait and see, but on the key question of eligibility for social care, we won’t have any immediate answers.
Disabled people have repeatedly told us that whether or not they qualify for local authority funded care and support is their overriding concern. The Bill will establish a national eligibility threshold – a national minimum level at which local authorities must provide care and support. This should help to end the current variations between one local authority and another. However, there’s a danger that this threshold, which will be set through regulations, will be set too high. In future, care and support is likely to be available only for people whose needs are ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’, potentially denying social care to thousands of others whose independence will be severely curtailed.
Social care in crisis
We know that local councils have had to cut back on funding for social care, partly by reducing the numbers of disabled people who receive it. The Other Care Crisis (PDF), a joint report from Scope and four other disability charities using research from the London School of Economics estimates that 70,000 disabled people are already struggling to get by without social care and a further 30,000 more will be at risk of losing their support if the Government’s proposals go ahead as planned.
In a Scope survey, featured in the report, four in ten disabled people said that their basic needs, like washing once a day, getting dressed and getting out of the house, were not being met. We heard from people like Joshua who now has to ask strangers for help to put his shoes back on when they fall off and Michelle who often goes without having a shower because she just doesn’t have the energy to manage.
Britain Cares about social care
This is why Scope has launched the Britain Cares campaign to end this scandal. We – along with other charities, groups and thousands of people are calling on the Government to put in place enough funding so that disabled people can get the essential support they need. Crucially, the budget for social care will be decided in the forthcoming Spending Review in June and this is when the regulations setting out national threshold are due to be published.
So, it’s not only May that will be significant in the life of the new Care and Support Bill, but also 26 June when the Spending Review is announced. Although we hope that the new Bill will contain considerable improvements to the first draft, it will be far from ‘job done’. Over the next few weeks, through our campaigning and discussions with parliamentarians and civil servants, we’l l be redoubling our efforts to ensure that disabled people have the vital support they need to live their lives.