Changes to care system could affect thousands
UK charities are concerned that new government care regulations – which are subject to consultation – will lead to many people being shut out of the care system.
Draft guidelines state that from 2016 there will be a set of care needs someone must have to qualify for council-funded care.
Care Minister Norman Lamb says that this new system will be fairer and will eliminate the confusion over levels of care provided depending on where people live.
Age UK charity however argues the proposed changes are “restrictive” and “not good enough.”
Currently, councils fund care at one of four levels: low, moderate, substantial or critical.
A table published by the Department of Health last year found that the majority of councils that provide care (130 out of 152) do so at the substantial level, which will be continued in the new system.
It was also found in the table that only three councils paid at the higher critical level, and ministers hope the new system will make around 4,000 extra people living in those areas eligible for help.
However, in 19 council areas – the ones which currently pay for moderate or low needs – there is concern the amount of care provided will be significantly reduced, because the criteria for care will become stricter.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK is particularly worried about the new restrictive system:
“The regulations are written in such a way that we worry that people with dementia who need help to continue to live at home with dignity could be screened out, together with those who struggle with dressing, or washing, or going to the toilet or preparing food.
“From now on the inability to do just one of these fundamental things will not be enough to qualify you for support and Age UK’s concern is that without it, some older people’s needs will escalate, undermining their capacity to continue to live at home.”
The care changes also include a cap on personal care costs at £72,000, and many fear this cut will put pressure on the NHS for all those who do not qualify for council-funded care.
Rachael Byrne, executive director of care and support for Home Group (one of the UK’s largest providers of social care services) is particularly concerned.
She said: “Many people who have relied on care from their local council will find themselves squeezed out. This will place an intolerable strain on an already overstretched NHS.”