Research by the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation highlights 'increased rationing of social care in response to deep cuts from central government, despite the growing numbers of older people in the population'.
Key findings of the report include:
- Between 2009/10 and 2012/13 spending on social care for older people fell by 15 per cent in real terms from £10.6 billion to £9.8 billion
- Almost a quarter of a million fewer older people received publicly funded community services in financial years 2012/13 compared to 2009/10, a 26 per cent drop
- Home and day care spending by councils fell by 23 per cent (or £538 million) over the same period
- The number of older people receiving home-delivered meals has more than halved since 2009/10
- Transfers of money from the NHS to adult social care have more than doubled since 2009/10. Without these, service cuts in social care could have been even more drastic.
- The study seeks to assess the impact of social care cuts on the health and well being of older people and their carers, but finds that due to a lack of available data it is not possible to quantify this.
Holly Holder, Fellow in Health Policy at the Nuffield Trust and joint report author said: “Our analysis paints a picture of increased rationing of social care in response to deep cuts from central Government, despite the growing numbers of older people in the population. It is highly likely that this is having a negative effect on older people’s health and wellbeing and that of their carers, but without adequate data to assess this impact, the NHS and Government are flying blind.”
The idea that somehow the austerity cuts introduced over the last several years by Government have avoided impact on services around the health and well-being of UK citizens is completely challenged by these findings.
The report is not the first of its kind, with pretty much all stakeholders in the social care sector painting a very similar picture. As a community care lawyer of some 15 years’ experience, the report does not come as any surprise. However, the “rationing” of social care services can often be based on a flawed or unsustainable legal position by a local authority when the facts of the individual case are considered.
People who have eligible needs for community care services are entitled to receive those services from a local authority, but often the authority will argue that they have insufficient funds to provide the required service or have to cut back on the provision due to budgetary cuts. Another argument is that the level of need is not great enough to require a service. Many such decisions have been, and will continue to be, successfully challenged with the right legal arguments.
Essentially, the law in terms of the duties to arrange and provide care services remains unaltered in most regards. And yet the numbers being cared for have dramatically shrunk. This can only mean that either:
- The population has become massively healthier in old age – not so
- The population has fewer older people needing help - again I see no evidence of this
- There has been wholesale unlawful application of the cutbacks to those most in need.