THE BLOG

A Hard Act to Follow

01/04/2016 11:58

It has been a year since the Care Act came into force.

Described by Norman Lamb, the Care Minister at the time, as "the most significant reform of care and support in more than 60 years", it was a landmark piece of legislation, with the potential to transform the lives of disabled people, who make up a third of social care users.

However, the new Act was introduced in the midst of a funding crisis, which always threatened to undermine its good intentions.

One year on, and notwithstanding important Government measures announced in last year's Comprehensive Spending Review, the impact of chronic underfunding is still being felt by disabled people

Social care is hugely important for disabled people

It supports many just to do the basics - get up, get washed, get dressed - and also to live any kind of independent life outside of the home. Getting out and about, visiting friends and families, and playing a role in the community are things many of us take for granted. But they simply aren't possible for some disabled people if they don't get the right support.

Unfortunately, many don't.

Rachel Wyatt, a 42 year old disabled woman who got in touch with Scope, relies on care workers coming to her home to help her move, eat and dress. She told the Guardian in November that she has seen her care package cut by two-thirds since 2010. Without that help, she is sometimes forced to sleep in her wheelchair, in her clothes.

We hear stories like Rachel's all too often. Disabled people have told us they are waiting fourteen hours to go to the toilet, sleeping in their clothes, unable to eat or wash and left socially isolated.

Chronic underfunding has left the care system in crisis

The Government has recognised the urgent need for investment in care. As a result, social care was a major focus of the Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review announcements in November last year.

The Chancellor announced further funding to implement the Care Act and an extension of the Better Care Fund (BCF), a Government health and care integration programme. Most importantly, councils were given a new power to raise council tax by up to 2% in their areas to ease social care challenges. This social care precept was in recognition of the fact that financial pressures have forced councils to ration care.

According to council social services directors, spending on social care (ADASS) is down £4.6bn in the last five years.

In June 2015, ADASS found that 400,000 fewer people are receiving social care than in 2009-2010 and that many who are supported are receiving less care. Most directors of adult social services expect that in the next two years there will be further reductions in the numbers of people with access to social care services.

Disabled people are feeling the impact.

Scope's research shows that the vast majority (83%) of disabled people say that they don't have enough hours in their care package. Half of disabled people using social care can't get the support they need to live independently and one in three who get social care expect it to get worse in the next five years.

We need a sustainable funding settlement and new outcomes for care

Despite the Government's social care spending announcements, there will still be at least a £1.4 billion gap in social care funding from this month, and a £1.6 billion gap next year. Around 90% of councils intend to levy the new precept, according to a recent Local Government Association Survey.

It is vital that the impact of this, as well as the additional Care Act and BCF funding announced last year, is properly monitored to see if they result in disabled people's care needs being met.

This monitoring needs to be grounded in the "wellbeing principle" introduced by the Care Act. This effectively puts a duty on local authorities to enable disabled people to live independently. To be effective it also needs to monitor variations in the provision of care between councils, and best practice.

To realise the full potential of the Care Act we need a sustainable funding settlement from Government, and reformed health and social care systems that support working-age disabled people to live their lives.

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