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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Social care shake-up will fail elderly and disabled in Hampshire, MPs warn

Written by The Daily Echo
Social care shake-up will fail elderly and disabled, MPs warn Social care shake-up will fail elderly and disabled, MPs warn

A SHAKE-up of social care will continue to fail elderly and disabled people in Hampshire without big changes, an investigation by MPs and peers warns today.

The alarm is raised over gaping weaknesses in flagship reforms to cap the cost of residential care bills and make more people eligible for means-tested help.

Ministers are urged to think again over:

* Allowing local councils to fund only “substantial” needs – denying help for everyday tasks such as getting up, bathing, making meals, housework and shopping.

* Opening the door for town halls to impose charges for equipment and home adaptations - and on carers. All are currently free.

* The threat of a “deluge of disputes and legal challenges”, when cash-starved councils make more decisions about eligibility for help.

At the heart of the concerns, are plans for a “national minimum eligibility threshold”, to decide which elderly and disabled people should receive means-tested care.

More than 80 per cent of local authorities - including Southampton and Hampshire - limit home helps to those whose needs are "substantial", or greater.

It is widely expected the new minimum threshold will also be set at "substantial", when ministers set out their plans, for 2015.

But the committee was told that 69,000 working-age disabled adults had already “fallen out of the care system” – with another 36,000 to follow, if that decision was taken.

Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat chairman of the Draft Care and Support Bill committee, said: “Many, many people are excluded from the system by the move to funding substantial and critical care only.

“We heard evidence that this runs counter to the government’s objective of prevention and that a setting of funding ‘moderate’ care is the desirable goal.”

Mr Burstow also said there were fears of charges for “equipment, aids and minor adaptations”, adding: “The minister said that was not the intention, but the government needs to be clear from the start.”

He predicted trouble ahead, if residents unhappy about council rulings on eligibility – and on when costs kicked in – were forced to go through town hall complaints processes.

Calling instead for an independent tribunal system, Mr Burstow said: “The process is shrouded in secrecy - and there are 152 different systems at the moment.”

A £1bn package, unveiled last month, promised to impose a £75,000 lifetime cap on care home fees – to try to avoid homeowners having to sell up, to pay their bills.

The means-tested assets threshold - below which state help is available – will be hiked to £123,000, to help owners of less expensive homes.

On Sunday, Chancellor George Osborne announced the change would be fast-tracked by one year, to 2016, and a slightly lower £72,000 cap introduced.