1. The social care system is on its knees. Social care is the support disabled people get from their council to get up, get washed and dressed, and live independently. Cash-strapped councils have been upping the bar for support eligibility, with 83% of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system. And councils are squeezing the support for those that are in the system. A Scope survey found almost 40% of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs met including eating properly, washing, dressing or being able to get out of the house. ADASS says councils are facing a further 10% cut in their budgets. Have a listen to Angela Murray explain why social care is so important to her. Take away the preventative support and people fall into crisis. A series of experts and politicians made the link between the escalating A&E crisis and social care over the last six months.
2. Britain Cares about social care. Over the last six months the public has been showing it cares about social care. The Stephen Fry-backed Britain Cares campaign has seen over 25,000 people contact their MP about social care for disabled people – a thousand of whom have sent personalised photos to show they care. At the same time Angela launched a petition on Change.org, which has received more than 45,000 signatures. A similar petition on 38 degrees garnered just as much support. Those will passion for craft have worked the words ‘I Care’ on to everyday items and sent them to their MPs to show their support.
3. £3.8billion. The June Spending Review saw the Chancellor make significant cuts across Government departments – to reach a target of saving £11.5bn, including removing automatic pay rises for time served for staff in schools, NHS, prisons and the police. Against that backdrop he announced a £3.8 billion investment – including £2 billion of new money – in social care with the aim “of delivering better, more joined-up services to older and disabled people, to keep them out of hospital and to avoid long hospital stays”. The Government announced this money would be spent through Health and Wellbeing Boards. This is significant as it was the mechanism a Scope-facilitated joint inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group and All Party Parliamentary Disability Group recommended in its report Preventing Crisis: Making social care reform work for disabled adults. This should enable the money to be spent on front line services, reacting to local demand.
4. We’ve now got the small print. Some of the cash can go into the main social services kitty (or black hole judging by ADASS’ latest budget survey). But there are conditions attached, that demand councils to spend most of the money on joined-up health and social care. Councils and health services have to agree plans for how it will be spent, which then need to be signed off by Health and Wellbeing Boards. The Government also wants to see joint approaches to assessment and care planning and, where care is joined-up, one accountable professional. Cash should also be targeted at supporting patients being discharged from hospital who need care. Most intriguingly councils only get the extra cash if they retain their eligibility threshold at the current level. This is very much a case of the Government addressing what it sees are the most urgent issues, while it goes about making the case for the Care Bill.
5. The crucial question is who gets care and who doesn’t. The Government will answer this as part of the Care Bill, which has had its first set of debates in the Lords. Under the current plans – reiterated by the Minister in a discussion guide, which also gave a clue as to how eligibility would be worked out. The good news is that some of the detail of how the Government will decide eligibility looks good. The bad news is that the Government intends to set the bar for eligibility to social care at a level which London School of Economics (LSE) says will leave 105,000 disabled people with significant needs outside of the system altogether. The bill also seeks to tackle the crisis in care by introducing a cap on costs, a new means-testing threshold and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care. It is due to be debated in the Lords in October and then it’s over to MPs at the end of the year. Scope – like a number of organisations – is arguing that by squeezing people out of the system the government undermines other more positive moves, such as a cap. We’re also expecting a consultation in November which will be a chance for disabled people, carers, families and public to have their say.