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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Home Group warns of social care postcode lottery

Written by The Editorial Team

One of the UK’s largest providers of social care services has warned that ambiguity in the rules and guidance included in the Care Act could undermine the Government’s desire to create a national set of care standards.

Home Group has responded to the Government’s Care Act draft regulation and guidance consultation, warning that the current guidance could lead to the reintroduction of the local variations in eligibility that the Act was designed to prevent.

Home Group, which provides social care services to 30,000 people each year, believes that a lack of clarity around the terms used within the Care Act legislation could mean that some ill and vulnerable people with a major support need will no longer receive the care they need.

For an adult to meet the eligibility criteria, their needs must be caused by a physical impairment or illness, and they must be unable to achieve specified outcomes including carrying out ‘some or all’ basic care activities.

Home Group wants the planned criterion for basic care needs to be altered to “one or more” basic care activity, to ensure that people who have a major support need in only one category will continue to receive the support they need.

Rachael Byrne, executive director of care and support at Home Group, said: “Leaving individual local authorities to determine the meaning of the term ‘some or all’ could result in the reintroduction of local variations in eligibility and bring back the postcode lottery by the back door. The requirement to fulfil ‘some or all’ basic care activities could exclude people who have a major need in one specific basic care activity, but not in others.

Home Group also raised concerns around the introduction of the ‘Wellbeing Principle’, which states that in addition to rendering a person unable to achieve a series of specified outcomes, a person’s physical or mental impairment or illness must have a ‘significant impact on their wellbeing’. Home Group is concerned that this term could be interpreted by local authorities in a way that restricts access to social care services for people with substantial needs.

Ms Byrne said: “In a climate of reduced government funding and ever increasing demands on resources, there is a danger that this loophole could be misused by local authorities to save money and resources by restricting access to care services. People whose care needs are classified as substantial are very vulnerable and may have suffered from abuse or neglect and run the risk of doing so in future. It would be a tragedy if people in this category had their access to support restricted because of the ambiguities surrounding the meaning of having ‘a significant impact’ on someone’s wellbeing.”

Home Group also reiterated its previous concerns around the exclusion of ‘moderate’ care needs from the eligibility criteria.

Ms Byrne said: “The use of the term moderate to describe people’s care needs does not do justice to the importance of the support they require, and the difference it makes to their day to day lives. People in this category experience serious difficulties in carrying out everyday tasks such as personal care and domestic routines, and are at risk of isolation, loneliness and further health problems if they are not given adequate support.

“The current eligibility criteria will mean that many people with moderate care needs will no longer be eligible for state funded care, and instead be left to fend for themselves. The Government must do more to ensure that everyone who needs care is captured by the new system so that vulnerable people do not lose the vital services they rely on.”