Self-funders shun social services because of stigma

Self-funders are shunning social services because of perceived stigma and those who do seek help have their low expectations repeatedly reinforced, a damning report concluded today.

Private funders are left to take crucial decisions about their lives alone because councils fail to fulfil their responsibilities on advice, information and advocacy, the study by consultancy Melanie Henwood Associates, commissioned by council leaders, found.

Seeking help from social services still carried “considerable stigma” for older people, and most people with savings saw little point in doing so given the likelihood that they would not receive publicly funded care.

It said the most recurrent experience of people seeking support from social services was to receive a list of care homes and other services, while councils also failed to signpost people to other sources of information and advice.

Councils continued to breach policy guidance by assessing people’s finances before their needs, leaving them without support to access care if their assets put them above the means-testing threshold.

The previous government set councils a target of establishing universal access to information and advice for all users – including self-funders – but the report said this would be “challenging” to meet.

It warned councils against providing information and advice themselves – as opposed to commissioning it from other providers – given their role as gatekeepers of publicly-funded care and the perceived stigma of seeking support from social services.

The study, based on interviews with providers and 30 self-funding users and carers, was commissioned by the Putting People First Consortium, which includes the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Local Government Association, and supports councils to implement personalisation.

A related report, by the Institute for Public Policy at Oxford Brookes University, found that there were about 170,000 self-funding care home residents in England, with a similar number paying for home care, and that the market was growing.

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