Councils eye Birmingham’s ‘super-critical’ care threshold

Many more councils could move to a super-critical eligibility threshold for care, following Birmingham Council’s proposal to do so, according to sector heads.

Earlier this week, Birmingham set out plans to limit directly funded adult social care to people with critical personal needs – a higher threshold than any of the four bands set out in the government’s Fair Access to Care Services guidance: critical, substantial, moderate and low.

It hopes this will save £69m over the next four years, but the proposal has been heavily criticised.

Andrew Cozens, group lead for adult social care at the Local Government Association, said Birmingham’s proposals were the “end game” for an underfunded care system. He said efficiencies could be made up to a point, but after that you had to look towards how much care local authorities could provide.

“If you are running very efficient services and you have reduced expensive care models and have good relationships with health services and a personalised service, the only place to go is quantum for all councils,” he said.

He said this was consistent with government policy to support more people through preventive services before they entered the care system.

Ruth Cartwright, the British Association of Social Workers joint manager for England, agreed that councils were increasingly likely to restrict eligibility criteria.

However, she described Birmingham’s proposals as brinkmanship in an ongoing argument between the Department of Health and local authorities over the adequacy of the comprehensive spending review settlement for adult social care.

Council funding will be cut overall by 28% in real terms from 2011-15, though this will be partly offset by an extra £1bn a year for adult care from the NHS.

At the National Children’s and Adult Services conference last month, care services minister Paul Burstow said there was enough money for social care to avoid raising eligibility thresholds. But the Local Government Association disputes that claim, arguing that an annual funding gap between care needs and resources of £4bn could open up from 2011 to 2015.

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