Social workers pressured to play down clients’ needs below eligibility bar

Cuts leading to higher hospital admissions, increased isolation and more pressure on carers, warn professionals in response to survey by Age UK and The College of Social Work.

One in five adult social workers have been pressured to minimise older people’s level of need during assessment to prevent them becoming eligible for support, says research published today.

However, one in four of the 300 practitioners polled by Age UK and The College of Social Work (TCSW) said they had exaggerated older people’s needs to ensure they did qualify for support.

The survey found that 93.5% of respondents said older people who would have qualified for care three years ago were not receiving it now, while 79% said older people whose needs had not changed were getting less help than they would have done in 2010. This was leading to significant additional pressures on families and services:

  • 63% said older people were being admitted to hospital more frequently;
  • 71% said older people were becoming more isolated;
  • 85% said families were having to take on additional caring responsibilities.

“Social workers are doing as much as they can to secure essential care and support services necessary to enable older people to live with dignity and in comfort in their own homes and communities,” said Bernard Walker, chair of TCSW’s adults faculty. “But they are alerting us to many incidents where even the very basic levels of care are either no longer available to people or are being withdrawn altogether.”

Age UK said the survey results showed there was a strong case for setting a nationwide threshold for care at the current ‘moderate’ band under the Fair Access to Care Services system. Currently, almost nine in ten councils set their threshold at the higher ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ bands.

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