A third of social workers are prepared to exaggerate service users’ needs to obtain care for them as more councils tighten adult’s eligibility criteria, an exclusive Community Care survey reveals this week.
Of the 300 adults’ services social workers surveyed, 34% said they would be prepared to bend the rules as part of the assessment process to ensure clients met the thresholds for receiving services. Two-thirds were concerned they would be disciplined for it further down the line but would still go ahead.
The survey also found two-thirds said their council had tightened eligibility criteria. Nearly a third of frontline social workers had been pressured by their managers to reassess fewer referrals as eligible for services, while more than half had been asked to reassess existing clients as no longer eligible.
The findings come as an increasing number of councils forecast budget difficulties in adult services over the coming three years following the comprehensive spending review settlement last month.
In response to the survey, a Department of Health spokesperson said that while the government recognised rising demographic pressures on services, councils had to make “effective use” of resources.
“It is for individual local authorities to manage and direct their own resources in accordance with local priorities and the needs of the communities,” the spokesperson added.
Last week, care services minister Ivan Lewis (pictured) hit out at Kent Council for setting up an online TV station while at the same time increasing domiciliary care charges.
In a Westminster debate, Lewis said: “There is a local authority – I shall not name it as I do not wish to embarrass it – that is spending £300,000 on setting up a television station, while it has increased the fees for home care by £300,000.
“Let us be clear: some decisions being made at a local level about what matters to people need serious scrutiny in relation to local authority prioritisation.”
Community Care was told that the minister was referring to Kent Council, which launched Kent TV in September, an online, 24-hour service, broadcasting programmes on council-related topics. The council denied the initial £300,000 annual running costs were related to the raising of domiciliary care charges to a maximum of £15 a person each week.
Deputy leader of Kent Council Alex King told Community Care:
“There is absolutely no connection between the funding of domiciliary care charges and the setting up of Kent TV.”
How does tighter criteria affect frontline work?
Currently, four councils have raised their criteria to critical: Northumberland, West Berkshire, Wokingham and Harrow. Harrow is being taken to judicial review on 21 November over its decision by the Public Law Project.
As of July, 18% of councils had tightened their eligibility criteria in the past 18 months and 12% of councils were due to review them in the near future.
We want to know how this is affecting you on the frontline. Has your role changed beyond recognition to a rationer of services? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your experiences and they will be posted on the website this week to coincide with our exclusive survey.