Staff worried that self-assessment plans might lead to poorer services

Older people could receive poorer services under government
plans for users to assess their own needs, a director of social
services has warned.

Cornwall director Carol Tozer said her staff had raised concerns
that plans in the adult green paper for self-assessment would
falter because older people might underestimate their own

She told the Association of Directors of Social Services spring
seminar: “What my front-line staff have said is that some older
people are very unambitious in terms of what they think they need
and this could be an issue.”
Tozer said the problem could be compared with that of older people
not claiming for means-tested benefits such as the pension credit
or council tax benefit.

Staff also believed that self-assessment could lead to better
services only for those who shouted loudest. “It could be that some
will be much better at self-advocacy,” she added.

The government’s call for self-assessment is based on a belief
that assessments by social workers are often used to ration
services rather than meet needs.

The green paper states: “Difficulties such as shortage of staff
or resources, problems with communication, or a power imbalance in
the relationship can lead to outcomes that may not genuinely
address the individual’s needs.”

It calls for social workers to “navigate” users through services
rather than act as “gatekeepers”.

But Tozer said the government’s perception conflicted with
social workers’ view of their own work. “At the front line, people
still see themselves as advocates,” she said.

Several directors questioned the government’s claim that the
green paper’s vision of personalised and preventive services would
be cost neutral.

But West Sussex director John Dixon, who co-chairs the ADSS
disability committee, insisted the Department of Health recognised
the need for extra resources.

He said: “There’s clearly a DoH agenda and that needs funding.
So it is up to us to help them make that case  to the


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