Council funding cap ‘risks institutionalising disabled people’

Council proposal to cap spending on community care packages at the cost of a care home place will infringe people's human rights, says disability campaign group.

Picture credit: Milton Montenegro/Photodisc/Getty Images
Picture credit: Milton Montenegro/Photodisc/Getty Images

Disabled people risk being institutionalised by a potentially unlawful policy of capping the amount of council money that can be spent supporting them in the community, a report has warned.

Worcestershire Council’s proposed maximum expenditure policy would leave many disabled people with insufficient funding to meet their community care needs, forcing them to enter a care home or go without necessary support, said the report from We are Spartacus, a disability organisation that monitors and campaigns against cuts.

Under the consultative plans, which would apply to new clients and those whose needs are assessed as having increased, the council would cap its spending on an individual’s care package in the community to the cost of meeting their eligible needs in a care home, other than in “exceptional circumstances”.  Where people wanted to remain in their own homes when their support package would cost more than the cap, social workers would discuss ways of reducing the cost of the package, such as using assistive technology, families would be invited to “top up” the package or it would be suggested that the person accesses “informal or charitable sources of support”.

However, the Spartacus paper warned top-ups would only be open to wealthier families, charitable sources of support may not be available or reliable and the other option potentially left people living in their own homes without sufficient support to meet their eligible needs.

It also attacked a lack of detail from the council on the likely impact of the policy in its current consultation, including the absence of a ballpark figure for the expenditure cap, a projection of the number of people who may be affected, details on the impact on different user groups or information on the “exceptional circumstances” in which the cap would not be applied.

This “flawed” consultation left the council open to a judicial review challenge, while the policy itself could be unlawful by in effect forcing people into residential care, breaching their rights to private and family life under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“We submit that this is an unnecessarily extreme measure which will have a tremendously negative impact on its disabled residents, infringe their human rights, have unintended consequences and leave Worcestershire County Council wide open to legal challenge in the courts,” said the report.

The policy is expected to save the council £200,000 in the first year and higher levels of saving in subsequent years.

“This proposed policy is not about us forcing people into residential or care homes but rather helping them to live as independently as possible, in as cost effective a way as possible,” said the council’s head of adult social care, Catherine Driscoll. “While we acknowledge this is a controversial proposal, any suggestion that, if implemented, it would reduce standards of care, or result in people not having their assessed care needs met is fundamentally wrong.”

“We have been open and transparent about this proposal from the start and have tried to provide information on what is a very complex issue in a clear and informative way so people can make informed judgements,” she added.

The consultation runs until the end of the month and the council is encouraging people who have not responded to do so.

Mithran Samuel is Community Care’s adults’ editor.

Read our coverage of the government’s social care White Paper

Care assessments to be outsourced under White Paper plans 

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