Social care is currently operating a two-tier system, according to the Commission for Social Care Inspection. On the one hand, a dwindling number of people eligible for state funding are benefiting from improved services while, on the other, people are having to fend for themselves. CSCI estimates that 281,000 older people, with a mixture of high support and less intensive needs, receive no support of any kind.
It’s calling on councils to adopt a more inclusive approach to assessment. All older people should receive advice, and if they end up being “signposted” elsewhere the outcomes need monitoring.
Care services minister Ivan Lewis promptly called for a “fundamental rethink” of eligibility criteria, but quickly qualified that by saying more funding wasn’t the answer.
Social work is caught in the middle. Many teams will dispute the claim they abandon anybody but will suggest the way to increase their reach is to improve their resources. That’s clearly not on the government’s agenda. One thing everyone agrees is that the system is acting against a more comprehensive, preventive approach.
Ironically, it comes in a week when an eligibility framework for free personal care in Scotland is being called for because of funding shortfalls.
So, we all have some serious thinking to do. The review is welcome but it must inform – not distract from – the “fundamental rethink” needed to make the whole system more equitable and sustainable through the forthcoming green paper.