Mencap wants guaranteed support for lower-need users

Mencap has called for all English councils to provide a minimum level of help to people needing lower levels of care and support.

The charity is also calling for a robust study to establish the numbers of people with a learning disability in England, amid longstanding concerns that adult care funding is not keeping pace with the rising numbers of learning disabled people.

The calls form part of its response to the Department of Health’s consultation on draft revised guidance for determining eligibility for adult care, which closed yesterday.

Fair access to care services

Mencap backed the Department of Health’s decision to retain the current fair access to care services (FACS) system, despite recommendations to have it replaced in a DH-commissioned review by former regulator the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

Under FACS, councils are able to set eligibility thresholds at one of four levels of need – critical, substantial, moderate or low – though three-quarters of authorities limit publicly-funded care to people with either critical or substantial needs.

CSCI, which was replaced by the Care Quality Commission in April, criticised the way councils applied FACS but also said it had systemic problems, including tensions with the personalisation agenda.

New system proposed

It proposed a system under which councils allocated resources to people with immediate high needs and those likely to develop needs over the medium and longer-term, answering criticisms that people with lower-level needs were currently excluded from council funding.

However, while the DH accepted a number of the CSCI’s recommendations, including placing greater emphasis on preventive services, it said overhauling FACS would be too disruptive and costly, at a time of significant change for councils in adult social care.

The guidance is designed to apply until the implementation of the planned green paper reforms to long-term care, due in 2014, which would introduce a new national eligibility and assessment system.

False economy

Mencap said restricting eligibility to those with substantial or critical needs was a false economy as many people could be helped by just a few hours a week of support, guarding against them needing more intensive support in future.

It also called for more effective signposting to other services or organisations for those not eligible for care.

Its call for a study into the number of people with learning disabilities follows news that council spending on the client group rose by 8% in real terms last year, reflecting increases in the number of learning disabled people.

Adass response

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said the draft guidance said little about eligibility and instead set focused on laying out the Putting People First agenda to personalise care.

Sarah Pickup, formerly co-chair of Adass’s resources network and now the association’s honorary secretary, said: “We are in agreement with the context and direction of travel, but we aren’t sure there’s anything here which warrants it saying there are changes.”

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