Postcode Lottery in Social Care to End?

  • New draft rules are introduced by the government in an attempt to end "postcode lottery" in social care.

    The rules state that all councils in England would have to fund social care services for anyone deemed to have "substantial needs".

    The draft rules will come in to force from 2015 and is an attempt to remove the postcode lottery that older and disabled people are affected by in social care.

     This is when different local authorities offer different services depending on what they have available, so a person's needs would qualify for assistance in some areas and not in others creating social care assistance subject to postcode.

    Charities have said that the threshold to qualify for the guaranteed help is too high and would exclude many people who need help with everyday tasks.

    However, councils are concerned that with new eligibility criteria, some councils that are already struggling will not be able to afford the extra care required, and want assurances from the government that the extra costs will be fully funded.

    Councils can assess people as having "critical", "substantial", "moderate" or "low" needs, and decide who they provide social care services to based on this assessment. Currently there are only four councils in the country that provide care for people in all four categories - 16 councils fund those with "moderate" needs while most, 130, only fund those with "substantial" or "critical" needs. In some of the harder hit areas, services provided have been significantly reduced out of necessity in recent years due to budget cuts, down to the minimum required.

    There are worries that following the increase in requirements, some councils will have to provide more care than they are able to, and some could run out of money.

    The government says a national minimum would stop councils reducing services due to budget cuts and would level out variations between local authorities.

    Charities are concerned that although it is a step in the right direction to ending postcode lottery of social care, it will exclude too many people who need the help.

    Age UK's Michelle Mitchell says the criteria for eligibility is crucial:

    As it stands millions of older people and their families who have assumed they will benefit from the government's social care reforms will miss out.

    But there is still time for the government to change their minds and Age UK will be campaigning to persuade them to do so.

    Richard Hawkes, head of the disability charity Scope, said:

    Under the proposals more than a hundred thousand disabled people who need care to get up, get washed and dressed and get out would be shut out of the system.

    The National Autistic Society said new criteria "overlooks" autistic people who would not be recognised as needing support:

    The proposals for who qualifies for social care support leave the government's spending review promise in tatters.

    People with the disability often require support with everyday activities like getting washed and dressed, but the draft criteria restrict eligibility to those with a physical or mental impairment, which could mean that those who don't have a formal diagnosis miss out on support altogether.

    Only 63 out of the 152 local authorities [in England] have a diagnostic pathway in place for adults with autism, so a huge group are at risk.

    In 21st-century Britain, most people would agree that someone who cannot get out of the house independently is deserving of support. But the proposals are too vague to commit to this.

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