Campaigners are warning that thousands of adults in England could lose access to home care under draft government guidelines.
The new regulations set out the care needs someone must have to qualify for council-funded care. Charities say the criteria will lead to many people being shut out of the care system. However Care Minister Norman Lamb has said the new system will be fairer, reports the BBC.
The changes will be introduced in April 2015 and will see all local authorities in England use the same minimum guidelines for determining whether they should provide care. Currently, councils currently fund care at one of four levels – low, moderate, substantial or critical.
In the proposed criteria it is similar to the “substantial” category that most councils currently use.
In a table published by the Department of Health last year, it was discovered that 130 of the 152 councils who provided care did so at the substantial level. Three councils paid at the higher critical level, and ministers believe that about 4,000 extra people living in those areas will become eligible for help as the rules will be eased.
However, nineteen council areas that currently pay for moderate or low needs fear that the amount of care provided will be reduced due to the criteria becoming stricter.
The Care and Support Alliance said it was concerned the proposals “hardwire in the status quo of highly rationed care rather than create a preventative system that lives up to their big ambitions and keeps people from being isolated and ending up in A&E”.
Richard Hawkes, chairman of the Care and Support Alliance – a coalition of 75 organisations representing older and disabled people and their carers, said: “The government has passed up the chance to drive through a genuinely preventative system.
“It has instead hardwired the year-on-year rationing that’s seen people squeezed out of the system. Without that help, people’s lives fall apart. This will also place unbearable pressure on family carers.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, welcomed a “standardised” system, but said the new regulations were “restrictive” and “not good enough”.
Ms Abrahams said: “The regulations are written in such a way that we worry that people with dementia who need help to continue to live at home with dignity could be screened out, together with those who struggle with dressing, or washing, or going to the toilet or preparing food. From now on the inability to do just one of these fundamental things will not be enough to qualify you for support and Age UK’s concern is that without it, some older people’s needs will escalate, undermining their capacity to continue to live at home.”
Rachael Byrne, executive director of care and support for Home Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of social care services, said: “Many people who have relied on care from their local council will find themselves squeezed out. This will place an intolerable strain on an already overstretched NHS.
Mr Lamb said: “Until now it’s been hard for people who need care and their carers to know if they are eligible for care and support from their council and this has varied depending on where they live.
“Our national eligibility criteria will make the system fairer by clearly setting out what level of needs must be met by all local authorities, putting an end to this variation.”
The consultation is open until 15 August and centres on the changes that will come into effect from April 2015.
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