‘Critical’ Northumberland set to lower threshold as postcode lottery exposedthe criteria

Northumberland Council, one of just three English local authorities funding only critical care packages in adult services, is considering lowering its threshold, against the national trend.

Its move follows the publication last week of the criteria each authority planned to use this year, in which Northumberland, Wokingham and West Berkshire were the only councils with a critical threshold, under the fair access to care services guidance.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection revealed this month nearly three-quarters of councils planned to have a substantial or critical threshold by the end of this financial year, up from 62% in 2006-7.

Last week’s figures, provided by CSCI to the Learning Disability Coalition, included a council-by-council breakdown and revealed the extent of the postcode lottery for care. It prompted care services minister Ivan Lewis to warn local authorities they must address the problem.

Northumberland Council moved to critical in 2003, but said it was considering instituting a substantial threshold.

A spokesperson said: “We believe the substantial needs band would in practice largely overlap with the critical needs band, but we have so far taken the view that adopting it as the basis for new criteria might risk causing confusion.”

In contrast, nearby Sunderland Council set its criteria at low.

Neil Revely, director of health, housing and adult services in Sunderland, said this was designed to fund low-level care “to prevent more serious ­problems requiring costlier interventions later”.

The figures also showed that just one authority in the West Midlands supports people with moderate needs or below, while in the East Midlands most councils support people with moderate needs.

The Local Government Association said the situation was “unjust”, but that councils had been given little choice because government funding had failed to keep pace with demand.

More reaction and full figures

● BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme cited a Community Care survey of adult social workers in a feature on eligibility criteria last Thursday. The survey found that more than one-third of practitioners would exaggerate a client’s needs so that they could gain access to services.

Further information
Fair Access to Care Services guidance


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