Social Care Cuts Leaving Older People in England Without Support
11 January 2019 at 3:55 pm
Unfair social care assessments are leaving vulnerable older people in England without appropriate support to live a dignified life, a Human Rights Watch report says.
The not for profit interviewed over 100 people between the ages of 58 and 94 for their report, which said the UK government risked failing to secure older people’s rights to health and wellbeing.
HRW found some care assessors did not understand older people’s disability and support needs, while other assessors reportedly told people their services would be cut regardless of their individual needs.
Bethany Brown, HRW researcher and author of the report, said: “Older people don’t always get fair assessments of the support they need to live dignified, independent lives [and their] health and wellbeing can be harmed if they don’t get the services they’re entitled to.”
Under UK legislation, anyone who meets financial and special care criteria is entitled to government-supported social care services, including in-home assistance for things like preparing meals, dressing, or bathing.
An ombudsman report last year showed an 140 per cent increase in social care complaints since 2010 – figures that HRW said indicated serious concerns with assessments and oversight.
Profiled in the report is 76-year-old Mary Redman, from a small town near London. Despite having difficulty gripping and having used a walker for many years, she had her services cut by an assessor in 2016 after they falsely reported she carried a heavy tray across her kitchen during their assessment visit.
Mary successfully challenged the assessment, but the process took a year and lost her long term care giver because of it.
“After the start of this review, [she] was so uncertain as to whether she would have a job at the end of the review that she gave her notice,” Redman said.
According to the UK National Audit Office, funding for local governments to deliver social care and other services has decreased by almost half in the last seven years, even though the number of people in England aged over 65 is projected to increase by over 20 per cent from 2014 to 2024.
HRW said the UK government had legal obligations to ensure the rights of older people to live healthily and independently in the community.
“The UK government should ensure that older people receive the support they need and are entitled to by regularly monitoring social care assessments to ensure accuracy and fairness, and that services continue during appeals,” the report said.
Brown said many older people in England desperately needed these services and had no alternatives.
“Serious cuts to social services funding and an improper assessment can cause tangible risks to their health and wellbeing,” she said.
“Oversight is a crucial part of a properly functioning system, and the UK government should make sure that local authorities consistently conduct fair and accurate assessments and deliver appropriate services.”