LGA’s plan for single source of support comes under fire
Older and disabled people would receive benefits via councils in bid to cut bureaucracy and improve co-ordination
Social care leaders have raised concerns about Local Government Association plans for all public funds for older and disabled people to be delivered through all-encompassing individual budgets.
In a report last week, designed to influence the government’s forthcoming adult care green paper, the LGA proposes a single source of support for older and disabled people, drawing together social care, housing support, NHS and benefit funding.
It said this would minimise the bureaucracy involved in accessing “myriad often poorly co-ordinated” funds and services.
The LGA also recommended a single means test that would automatically trigger receipt of related benefits, including disability living allowance and attendance allowance.
While councils are permitted to set eligibility criteria for social care in line with their budgetary situation, DLA and AA are national entitlements that are not cash-limited, sparking concerns they would be diluted by being subject to local decision-making.
Former Wiltshire Council director of social services Ray Jones (right), now professor of social work at Kingston University and St George’s Medical School, said: “It’s a pitch that is not in the best interest of disabled and older people because there is a risk that national entitlements would get wound up in discretionary decision making and care could be rationed.”
John Knight (below right), Leonard Cheshire Disability’s assistant director of policy and campaigns, said the argument for a single means test was “alluring”, but added: “The DLA should not be used to subsidise state responsibilities. It is not clear what local authorities would do with it. They urgently need new cash streams and the danger is that it could become part of the same means test for social care, for which 70% of councils have raised the criteria to the highest levels.”
Anne McDonald, LGA programme director for community well-being, said that, although national eligibility criteria for benefits would remain, people entitled to these benefits would be able to receive them automatically through councils, rather than having to apply separately through central government.
The report proposes councils should be able to set budgets locally.
McDonald admitted that budgets may vary between areas, but said councils would be better able to meet local need than at present.
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