Service users subject to cuts say reassessments of their needs were a "rubberstamping exercise", says a report on a council that has raised eligibility thresholds.
Users said that reassessments took place after decisions had already been made. They were also poorly handled, functional and conducted by an unfamiliar care manager, and took no account of a person's changing circumstances, said the report by Poole Local Involvement Network (Link).
The study, commissioend by Poole Council, looked at the impact six months on of the authority's decision to raise thresholds from moderate to substantial and increase charges for care services last October. It was based on interviews with 24 people affected by the changes, which are expected to save £870,000 in a full year.
It found a lack of support was offered to those whose service had been removed. Many of those interviewed lacked the required personal resources to use information provided by the council to find alternative support. Letters outlining the changes were variously described as confusing and impersonal.
Among those interviewed, 10 people had high negative impacts with the risk that these will present to the council with increased care needs; three had small negative impacts and which may worsen over time; 10 had no adverse reaction to the changes and one had a positive impact.
It identified a particular risk of social isolation among those who could no longer attend day centres because of a lack of confidence, personal motivation and family support. "The impact of no longer using the day centre service was consistently significant. Most showed real vulnerability and even fear of what may become of them, " the report said.
Louise Bate, of Poole LINk, said: "Our research report suggests that people affected by these service changes could come back to the council with increased care needs, if they aren't offered more support.
"Almost two-thirds of survey respondents are now doing nothing on the days that they used to attend a day centre. There is a real risk of increasing isolation if people aren't supported to find alternatives."
The Link called on the council to commission a third sector organisation to provide advocacy support and to provide alternative early detection services to avoid issues escalating into a crisis.
Peter Adams, the council's cabinet member for adult social care, said the council will contact 75 people no longer receiving services to discuss their experiences and provide further information and advice if required, and would work more closely with the community sector and see how it could better meet local needs.
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Situation critical: Councils raise care eligibility thresholds