Councils are operating tighter eligibility thresholds for adult care than they claim publicly in order to manage cuts, an adult care director has claimed.
Some authorities have in practice raised their threshold without formally deciding to do so, claimed Ian Anderson, director of community services for Isle of Wight Council.
Anderson was defending the Isle of Wight’s decision to raise its threshold from substantial to critical from 1 April.
“I think what we are doing on the Isle of Wight is being more honest with the community than probably other councils are,” he said.
“I think a good number of other councils have effectively shifted their eligibility threshold informally but might formally still operate at a lower level.”
Anderson’s claim was backed up by other sector leaders.
David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap, said he had heard of councils doing this.
Ruth Cartwright, joint manager for England at the BASW – The College of Social Work, said: “I think this has always been there. When things get a bit tricky there’s always a bit of smoke and mirrors.
“Local authorities should be honest about what they can and can’t do because they’ve got to be accountable.”
Anderson said the problem related to the government’s Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) guidance on eligibility for care, which states that councils must set a threshold at one of four levels: low, moderate, substantial and critical.
“As a tool it doesn’t allow you to fine tune,” he added.
However, Local Government Association strategic lead for adult care Andrew Cozens said he had not heard of councils covertly tightening thresholds.
“The guidance requires them to set a threshold in accordance with FACS criteria,” he said. “Each must take their own advice on implications.”
Isle of Wight’s decision, which is designed to save £1.6m a year, puts it among a small but rising number of councils with a critical threshold. This means formal support is limited to those with life-threatening conditions, people unable to carry out vital personal care tasks or family roles or those at risk of serious abuse.
Anderson said that 1,100 care users would be reassessed on the island over a three-month period, starting shortly.
He said that most people would continue to be supported at a similar or increased level and those no longer considered eligible would still receive some support based on the risks they faced, along with information and advice.
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