MAJOR changes to the social care system which come into force in England today are “built on sand” unless more funding is allocated, charities have warned.
The Care and Support Alliance (CSA), a coalition of more than 80 charities, said the Care Act is a “bold attempt” to reform the system, but with an estimated £4.3bn funding black hole for social care services by the end of the decade, thousands of disabled and older people risk losing out on vital help.
The changes are the most comprehensive overhaul of the system since 1948, providing the first ever national eligibility threshold – a set of criteria determining when local authorities will have to provide people with support, which is aimed at tackling variations between local authorities.
Reforms also include a cap on personal care costs of £72,000, excluding accommodation, and councils will have a new duty to provide preventative services.
Ministers have claimed that the changes will make the system fairer but they have been widely criticised by campaigners as well as companies providing care services.
The CSA said the new threshold will mean many people whose needs are not deemed as serious will no longer be eligible for help, while chronic underfunding is only set to get worse at the same time as demand is becoming greater.
It said research from the London School of Economics found that around half a million older and disabled people who would have received care in 2009 are no longer doing so, while cuts in social care will amount to an estimated £4.3bn by the end of the decade, according to council chiefs.
The CSA said it welcomed aspects of the Care Act, such as its promotion of well-being and integration, giving older and disabled people greater control over their lives, new advocacy rights and new rights for carers.
But CSA chairman Richard Hawkes said: “Chronic underfunding of social care has seen dramatic year-on-year rationing of support for older and disabled people and their carers, excluding hundreds of thousands of people from the support they desperately need.
“Equally, while we welcome a national threshold for eligibility, by setting the bar at such a high level, the Government has ensured that the year-on-year rationing that has seen people squeezed out of the system will continue.”
Janet Morrison, of older people’s charity Independent Age, said: “The Care Act has the potential to radically improve the lives of older people but could fall at the first hurdle for lack of funds.
“Thousands of frail and elderly people don’t get any help at all at the moment with basic tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.
“Without proper funding to plug the black hole in social care funding this problem looks set to get worse.”