Age UK is urging older people, their families and carers, to add their voice to the national eligibility criteria consultation to help ensure it is set at a fair level. In this blog post we tell you why it is so important to get involved.
The Care Act 2014 has the potential to improve older people’s lives. One of the key changes the Act brings in is new national eligibility criteria.
Gone will be the days where local authorities set their own thresholds locally leaving older people facing a postcode lottery in access to care. That’s certainly the idea anyway.
The Government is currently consulting on draft regulations on a range of measures in the Care Act coming into force in 2015, including the new national eligibility criteria. The decision on how strict or generous these are is crucial, as it will determine for years to come who will be deemed eligible for care and support.
The new criteria are rooted in the Act’s ‘wellbeing principle’ meaning that it should no longer be just about the things people cannot do but what they want to do with their lives.
This is reflected in the list of outcomes that are to be used to determine eligibility, which includes not being able to complete basic tasks, such as eating, washing, dressing and going to the toilet; impact on personal and family relationships, working or volunteering, or accessing community services and facilities.
However, the ultimate test for eligibility will be whether, as a result of someone’s needs, there is a ‘significant impact’ on their wellbeing. Worryingly, there is no definition of what a ‘significant impact’ might mean in practice and it will up to each council to interpret this.
If an older woman starts sleeping in her living room because she cannot manage the stairs, does that constitute a ‘significant impact’ on her wellbeing? How about considering that it might be the first time in her marriage she has slept in separate rooms to her husband? Is being forced to have a wash with a flannel enough to maintain wellbeing when you cannot get in the bath anymore?
Coupled with the Government’s intention to maintain the status quo in terms of eligibility – i.e. keeping at the level the vast majority of councils adopt, ‘substantial’ – it seems that older people could continue to lose out on the care services they need to live with dignity.
Currently, there are more than 800,000 older people not getting any formal support. In a lot of cases, it may be because they have been accessed as having ‘moderate’ needs.
As a result, they must wait until their health deteriorates further before they can access the support they need. This is not exactly conducive to ‘wellbeing’ and it is hard to see how the new criteria will improve this.
This is why this consultation is so important.