‘A DAMNING INDICTMENT’ – of Labour’s social care system

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‘This is a damning indictment of a social care system that is failing older people’, Age Concern’s Director General, Gordon Lishman said yesterday.

He was responding to the just-published ‘State of Social Care’ report from the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI).

This found that elderly and disabled individuals and families across England are increasingly having to find and pay for their own social care, as councils restrict services.

Lishman added: ‘The government has said it wants more care delivered at home – but this report just highlights that fewer and fewer people have been receiving social care in recent years.’

Calling for a debate on what the state will provide, Lishman said: ‘Unfortunately this report just confirms the experiences of older people.

‘Those receiving care at home have seen services withdrawn and prices increased, while those in care homes, and their families, often find themselves subsidising the pitiful amounts local authorities pay for care.

‘Older people are also let down by the quality of care delivered in care homes.

‘It is unacceptable that 61 per cent of care homes don’t meet minimum standards of managing medication safely and 57 per cent don’t ensure there is an appropriate care plan for its older residents.’

Mervyn Kohler, Head of Public Affairs at Help the Aged said: ‘It comes as no surprise that the current social care system is still in a profound mess, and the portents for the future are even bleaker.’

He added: ‘This disturbing report shows how more older people are paying the price of a floundering system.

‘It is particularly alarming that only two thirds of care homes meet minimum standards relating to safe management of medication to residents.

‘There should be no excuse for such lapses in provision of basic, yet critical care needs, but sure enough we’re still hearing of it.’

He said the government was reluctant to fund care for the elderly and disabled.

Kohler concluded: ‘One in five of us will need significant care and support, but do we want it to be provided in the patchy, cheese-paring way that CSCI describes as the experience today?’

The State of Social Care in England 2005/06, a comprehensive annual overview of the entire social care sector, finds that more services are meeting minimum standards, but despite spending more, councils are tightening local rules about who qualifies for state-funded social care.

This means that more and more older and disabled people either have to find and pay for their own private care or rely on family members or friends.

It criticises the lack of ‘respite’ help for people who have caring responsibilities which can affect their ability to hold down a job, fulfil other family responsibilities such as looking after children, and may damage their own long-term health and emotional well being.

CSCI Chair Dame Denise Platt said that councils are ‘raising the threshold people have to pass before they are entitled to a council-funded service’.

She added: ‘As a result, irrespective of the quality of social care services, fewer people are receiving services.

‘Those who do qualify for care have a high level of need.

‘The options for people who do not meet the criteria set by their local council are limited. In some cases, people rely on friends and family members. In others, they pay for their own care. Some people have no option but to do without.’