Council ditches plan to set ‘super-critical’ care threshold

Birmingham Council has ditched plans to set the country's highest adult care eligibility threshold following opposition from disability groups.

Birmingham Council has ditched plans to set the country’s highest adult care eligibility threshold following opposition from disability groups.

The council faced heavy criticism in December after it published plans to restrict care to people with “critical personal care” needs, excluding those with substantial and other forms of critical need from support.

Today it announced that it had ditched the plan after concerns were raised in consultation about the impact on younger disabled adults.

However, the council will increase its threshold from substantial to critical, a move that will exclude people who cannot carry out the majority of personal care tasks or family roles from support.

An estimated 4,100 of Birmingham’s 14,000 council-funded care users are expected to lose care. The council is also facing a legal challenge to its decision to raise thresholds on the basis that it failed to consult properly and breached duties under the Disability Discrimination Act.

“It’s deeply concerning that local authorities are using eligibility criteria as a means of making cuts but I do think what Birmingham was consulting on had the potential to set a really dangerous precedent and I hope that all the protests there have been about that has caused them to see that it was both a catastrophic and counterproductive way forward,” said Anthea Sully, director of the Learning Disability Coalition.

However, she warned that the council was wrong to raise thresholds at all: “A lot of councils will come to regret making these sorts of cuts because they are unlikely to deliver long-term savings as councils are going to have to pick up the pieces.”

Today’s proposals set out how the council aims to make savings of £118m a year by 2014-15 from its adults and communities directorate, against a departmental budget this year of £380m. Government cuts mean the council needs to make £308m in annual savings by 2014-15 across its services.

The council said it wanted to provide citizens with a “new offer” for adult care, in which all would receive information, advice and signposting to appropriate services and access to preventive support such as telecare, equipment and carers support.

However, only those with low incomes or savings and critical care needs would receive formal care funding and a personal budget.

“Social care needs radical reform; we can’t go on as we are and still meet the changing needs of an ageing population,” said Sue Anderson, the council’s cabinet member for adults and communities. Many people now live long and active later lives so a system designed in the 1940s is simply not sustainable.”

The “new offer” will save £53m a year by 2013-14, net of an investment of £15.4m a year transferred from the NHS. The government has directed the NHS to spend £1bn a year on adult social care over the next four years, most of which will be transferred to local authorities.

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