HIV patients lose out from cuts to specialist social workers

People with HIV are losing out on vital social care support due to cuts to specialist social worker roles and rising eligibility thresholds.

People with HIV are losing out on vital social care support due to cuts to specialist social worker roles and rising eligibility thresholds.

That was the warning from a report published yesterday by the National Aids Trust, based on a survey of 149 healthcare professionals involved in the care of HIV positive patients.

Over three-quarters of respondents said the social care received by their patients benefited them, with 74% citing social care’s valuable role in providing physical or personal care, 71% citing emotional support and 65% saying social care helped patients adhere to treatment.

Specialist social work support was the most valued intervention by healthcare staff, with 77% citing its benefits.

However, several respondents warned that such posts were being cut, creating problems of stigma for service users who did not feel comfortable approaching generic social work teams.

“The current move to a ‘generic’ approach to social work is very unhelpful for HIV-infected patients, who often have complex medical histories and complex needs – requiring someone with some appropriate HIV-related knowledge to address these,” said one respondent.

Almost half of respondents (45%) said their patients had trouble accessing social care support, due to high and rising eligibility thresholds, lack of capacity in teams or referral processes being too slow.

The report concluded: “These findings suggest that HIV-specialist social care support should, wherever possible, be maintained (particularly in high prevalence areas). Innovative solutions should be considered such as a number of local authorities sharing some HIV specialist social care staff to whom complex cases can be referred and who can also act as trainers for generic social care providers.”

Funding for social care for people with HIV/Aids has traditionally come through the aids support grant. This was rolled into councils’ overall formula grant this year, although the government made notional allocations to local authorities for this purpose.

“Local authorities should put arrangements in place to ensure these funds are spent as intended, whether through greater flexibility or eligibility thresholds, greater provision of lower-level one-to-one social care support or greater support for voluntary sector open-access tailored services.”

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