Disabled adults of working age could bear the brunt of forthcoming adult care cuts because of council efforts to equalise the value of care packages between older and younger users, research has found.
Councils will come under a legal obligation not to discriminate against older people from 2012, and previous research has found this could add £2bn to annual care bills in England because of traditionally higher spending on packages for disabled adults compared with older people with similar needs.
But this figure relies on councils “levelling up” the value of care packages for older people. However, a Freedom of Information survey by former chief executive of Bolton Council Brian Collinge, who has a learning disabled son, found some councils were planning to level down the value of care packages for younger adults.
Collinge quizzed 38 councils on their approach to setting up resource allocation systems (RAS), which use needs assessment questionnaires to calculate the value of users’ personal budgets.
Most respondents (24) had based their RAS on guidance published last year by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, which said councils should use a single RAS for all client groups and that this could help identify and reduce discrimination.
Ten of these councils said they were using their RAS to equalise the value of care packages between client groups and eight said learning or physically disabled adults were likely to face cuts as a result.
Though the Adass guidance does not specify whether councils should level up or down, separate Social Care Institute for Excellence guidance on ending age discrimination in social care urges councils to “level up resources between groups as necessary to ensure age equality”.
However, one council quizzed by Collinge said equalisation could only be achieved by cutting resources for certain groups “due to the severe financial pressures being experienced across adult services”.
“If you level down you are going to condemn people with severe learning disabilities to life in a home,” said Collinge, who said councils should use different RAS for people with lifelong conditions and those who enter the care system late in life, claiming their needs were not comparable.
“The best example is deafness,” he said. “Some older people become completely deaf but it’s nothing like being born deaf. But if aspects of deafness are part of the needs assessment they will be treated the same.”
Mencap head of campaigns and policy David Congdon said the prospect of councils levelling down the value of care packages for disabled adults “would be a seriously retrograde step for disabled people”, and a “danger that we should resist”.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “All care packages should be tailored to suit people’s individual needs. It is only by personalising care that people will receive the support necessary to improve their quality of life.”
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