Care charities have welcomed today’s green paper on reforming the long-term care funding system, but raised questions about proposals to shift money paid to older people in Attendance Allowance into the social care system.
The Department of Health today laid out plans to establish a national care service, which would provide all people, regardless of their means, with some public funding for care and set a national eligibility threshold to determine access to support.
Counsel and Care said it particularly welcomed the prospect of a universal entitlement to care and an end to the postcode lottery, through a national eligibility threshold.
Attendance Allowance concerns
However, chief executive Stephen Burke questioned plans to fund additional state payments for care out of Attendance Allowance – a non-means tested benefit currently paid to older people with care needs.
He said: “Rather than a discussion on how we pay for care in the longer term, we may see instead a massive rearguard action to defend this benefit which is very popular with older and disabled people.”
Carers UK voiced similar concerns, saying that the proposal to channel Attendance Allowance funding into social care could have “serious consequences for families”, though it broadly welcomed today’s plans.
Merged older people’s charity Age Concern and Help the Aged said it was also concerned about the plans to “abolish a benefit that helps older people meet the cost of dealing with disability (Attendance Allowance) simply to prop up the system as it is today”.
Parkinson’s Disease Society ‘alarmed’
The Parkinson’s Disease Society said it welcomed the move to establish a national needs assessment, but chief executive Steve Ford said it was “alarmed” about the Attendance Allowance plan, adding: “We know how important this benefit is to maintaining the independence of people with Parkinson’s, and it’s vital that they do not miss out on this with the new system.”
Disability charities Scope and Leonard Cheshire Disability also questioned how far disabled people currently excluded from publicly-funded care by council-set eligibility criteria would be helped by the proposals.
Leonard Cheshire’s assistant director of policy and campaigns, John Knight, said: “The current shortfall in social care funding means that many councils only provide support to those with the most critical needs. This leaves thousands of disabled people without any support at all.
“The litmus test for these proposals will be making sure that all disabled people can access the care and support they need.”
Eligibility threshold is key test
Scope chief executive John Sparkes said a “key test” of the proposals will be where the new national eligibility threshold is set.
He added: “This cannot simply be confined to people with high support needs – social care services are key to the independence and dignity of disabled people with lower-level needs.”
The government has said that people who have difficulty with at least three activities of daily living – such as washing or dressing – would be eligible for support, but is yet to clarify how this corresponds to the current Fair Access to Care Services eligibility bands.
Under FACS, councils can ration care at one of four eligibility bands – critical, substantial, moderate or low – corresponding to different levels of need.