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06.10.16

Councils falling behind on ‘desperately needed’ Care Act reviews

Councils in England have been failing to provide social care clients and their carers with “desperately needed” assessment reviews, despite there being an expectation to do so under the Care Act, new figures from NHS Digital reveal.

The figures show that in England in April 2015 – March 2016, just over half (55%) of social care clients who had been accessing long-term support for over a year received any review.

Of those that took place, 49% of planned reviews (147,000) and 51% of unplanned reviews (50,000) resulted in no change. In 13,000 planned reviews, the assessment led to the client being moved to residential or nursing care.

Vicky McDermott, chair of the Care and Support Alliance, said the figures showed “that fewer and fewer people are receiving the care and support they desperately need”.

“This is yet another indicator of the impact that chronic underfunding of social care in England is having,” she added. “Because of a lack of funds, cuts to care budgets mean that vulnerable older people, disabled people and their carers are being forced out of the system. ADASS figures from earlier this year show that an extra £1billion per year is needed just to ‘stand still’.

“The prime minister will be judged by her actions, not her words. If Theresa May is serious about creating a ‘country that works for everyone’,  she must address the growing crisis in social care funding, and we urge her to make it a priority in the autumn statement.”

Social care is facing a £3.5bn deficit by 2020, and a recent report from the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust warned that older people may have to primarily rely on private care in the future.

Carers are also supposed to receive an assessment of their needs under the 2014 Care Act.

The new figures showed that there are 387,000 carers currently in contact with their councils. However, a third of these carers (131,000) did not receive an assessment.

The data did reveal, though that 81% of carers (314,000) receive support, in addition to 57,000 instances of respite or other support for their cared-for person.

In a recent Carers Trust survey, 65% of respondents said they had not had an assessment since the Act was introduced, which the charity linked to cuts to the social care system.

Furthermore, it was much harder for new clients to access support. Councils received 1.8 million new requests for support, 72% of which were from clients aged 65 or over.

However, 57% did not result in direct support from the council. For 524,000 of these, clients were referred to other services, and for 515,000, their needs were found to be below the eligibility threshold.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA's community wellbeing board, said: “Not every person requesting or receiving a care assessment necessarily needs the direct support of adult social care services. In many cases, signposting someone to an alternative type of support, such as in the voluntary sector, could be more suitable, and should enable people to live more independently in their community for longer.

“But we can only provide care and support to those who are assessed as needing direct support if social care is properly funded.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We understand the social care system is under pressure, and this Government is committed to ensuring those in old age throughout the country can get affordable and dignified care."

They said that the Care Act had given "new rights" to carers and the government was introducing "landmark reforms" to social care funding.

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