Today the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, an influential cross-party group of MPs who monitor Government spending, will start taking evidence into the integration of health and social care and how well it’s going.
At the end of the inquiry the Committee will make recommendations to Government about how to improve the social care system.
400,000 disabled people rely on social care to get up and get dressed and good social care can support disabled people to work and participate in their communities if they want to. Yet too often disabled care users report poor experiences and poor outcomes and we are campaigning to improve social care for disabled people.
Social care has been high up the political agenda recently because of the funding crisis so this inquiry comes at an important time. We think it’s vital the Committee carefully examine how the social care system is working for working age disabled adults and hope they tell the Government how to improve the care disabled people receive.
What is integration and why is it happening?
Traditionally the support people receive from the health service – such as getting up and getting out of the house or in a residential care setting – has been funded and organised separately from social care support.
Integration aims to get health and social care working together, focusing on a person’s needs and ambitions regardless of whether what they need support with is classed as a ‘health need’, a ‘care need’ or both.
The aim is to avoid unnecessary delays in people accessing the support they need and to ensure support is joined-up when they do receive it.
What we want the Government to do
Working age disabled adults make up a third of all social care users but our research found that 55 per cent of them think social care never supports their independence. So, the Government need to do more to ensure local authorities prioritise the needs of disabled care users.
When the Government announced the Better Care Fund they set out a number of ways they were going to measure how effectively local areas were spending the money.
Currently, these measures look at issues such as whether the number of hospital admissions has reduced rather than whether an individual receiving care is being supported to live independently in the way they choose. Our research found that of the 91 Better Care Fund Plans approved in October 2014 just 14 included schemes specifically aimed at disabled adults under 65.
We want the Government to change to the way they measure the success of the Better Care Fund and other integrated care schemes so that they include outcomes relevant to working age disabled adults. This could include things such as whether social care is supporting disabled people to access employment or education or have contact with their local community.
We asked young disabled social care users aged 17 – 30 about their experiences of social care and they told us they would like more support in areas such as transport, where to live and employment. 60 per cent of respondents said they would like support with employment but do not currently get this.
We think integrated care teams supporting young disabled people should build partnerships with local specialist employment services, in order to support people who use their services to access up to date information and support that is relevant to them.
Finally, the extreme financial pressure both the NHS and social care system are under makes successful integration more difficult. In order to make integration work for working age disabled people the Government must also commit to sustainably funding social care.
That’s why we are calling on the Government use the Spring Budget to provide the social care system with the funding it so urgently needs.