Few people realise that social care will be cut by 33% by 2015 and on current projections will be cut by 50% by 2018. This is the deepest cut to any part of the welfare state since its creation and yet it is going entirely unnoticed. How has this happened?
When I first calculated the impact of the government's plans in 2010 I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Although the government had declared that there would be extra money for social care, in reality it was cutting local government funding by 40%. But 60% of non-ring fenced local government expenditure is for social care so this is where most of this cut must fall.
As the graph below makes clear - the proportion of cuts falling on local government - and therefore on social care is far greater than on any other area (even benefits):
I still don't know whether the cut to social care is an intentional attack on support for disabled and older people or just a dreadful accident - an oversight by a confused new government desperate to balance the budget. But if they thought that most people wouldn't know what social care was or would blame local government for the cuts, then so far, they have been proved correct.
And these cuts are well underway. Over the first two years of this government social care for children and adults was cut by over £3.5billion; and local government will have no choice but to continue making further cuts each year. The annual cut by 2015 is likely to be more than £8 billion (33% of total spend).
At a human level the consequences are being felt all over the country: increased charges, higher eligibility thresholds and reduced support. Nadia Clarke - a Fellow of The Centre for Welfare Reform - recently heard that her support has been radically cut. She described her fears in a recent essay.
If I no longer have my team of personal assistants I will feel lonely, isolated, bored and depressed; my personal assistants are my life and my world; without them life would be dull. They mean everything to me and have such a huge impact in my life. My team of personal assistants are trained in British Sign Language, my Cochlear implant, my Dynavox communication aid, my wheelchair, moving and handling (so that I am comfortable), and they help me with my drinking, eating and personal care. Now the Council are talking about putting an alarm system in my house for when I am on my own, and sending agency staff 4 times a day to put me on the toilet.
This young woman makes a valuable contribution to the world, and yet she faces being institutionalised in her own home. Nadia and her family are now in a desperate battle to persuade her local authority - Calderdale Council - of the injustice of their plans.
Of course, local government can rightly blame central government for these cuts - but this is something it finds very difficult to do. Directors of Social Services find themselves in an impossible position. Many have decided to take early retirement, others fear upsetting local politicians or damaging their relationship with central government.
It seems that social care does not have the necessary structures to defend itself from this attack. The systems that have been protected, like the NHS and Pensions, have benefited from being well known, universal and valued. Social care lacks these advantages.
For disabled people things have never seemed so bleak. They not only face social care cuts, but they also face significant cuts in income and threats to their housing. Many of us are hoping that the Labour Party will organise an Opposition Day Debate on this topic or that the Church, or the Voluntary Sector will challenge the government. But it may be that it will take a different kind of strategy.
If you want to know more about this situation then you could read the report - A Fair Society? You can also put your name to the WOW Petition and I would also encourage you to join the Campaign for a Fair Society.
Follow Dr Simon Duffy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/simonjduffy