Leonard Cheshire: Disabled people denied social care

Disabled people are being denied the social care services they need due to poverty, charges and tightening eligibility criteria, Leonard Cheshire Disability has said.

The charity’s third Disability Review – its third annual stocktake of the lives of disabled people – showed a fall in the proportion of people accessing social care, with services increasingly concentrated on those with higher needs.

In 2007, 34% of people were using social care, in 2008 the figure stood at 19%, but just 16% of the 1253 surveyed this year had used social care services in the past year.

Drop in lower-level support

The proportion of users receiving up to five hours care a week fell to 31% from 33% in 2008 and 43% in 2007; however there was a sharp rise from 2008-9, from 13% to 23%, in those receiving 50 or more hours of care a week.

The charity found 50% of respondents with social care needs and an income of less than £100 a week were having to pay for all (34%) or some of their (16%) care. This could be because they are subject to local authority charges or have needs that fall below eligibility thresholds, forcing them to pay for care privately.

Of those who had used social care historically but not in the past 12 months, 19% said that this was because they could not afford to pay for it.

Increasing dependence on carers

The report also found increasing dependence on informal care, with 60% of all respondents receiving help from relatives or friends, up 4% from 2008. Eighty three per cent of informal carers received no help or benefits.

Public policy manager at Leonard Cheshire Disability Guy Parckar said: “We seem to be seeing fewer people receiving support for lower level support needs, fewer people being able to pay for the support that they need, and more people receiving informal care support from friends and family.”

The report found disabled people were facing increasing levels of poverty, with 42% of those surveyed saying they were struggling to live on their present income, up from 33% in 2007.

Poverty risks

Parckar added that while for people who acquired care needs later in life, care charges meant reducing their assets, for disabled people of working age “this can mean that assets are never even accumulated; this can mean that there can be real risks that people can be trapped in poverty for life”.

The report also illustrated the value of social care to disabled people with 92% of those who used social care  saying their lives would be “a lot worse” without services.

Responding to the report, a Department of Health spokesperson pointed to the government’s proposed reforms to social care funding through its green paper, which were designed to make the system “simpler, fairer and more affordable”.

She said that the DH would be publishing updated guidance on eligibility criteria last year, following a recent consultation on the current Fair Access to Care Services guidance.

She added: “The revised guidance will place eligibility criteria within a wider context of personalisation and prevention, to address not only the needs of individuals but also of the wider community.”

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