Care in Crisis – time for action!

 At Age UK we’re getting excited about the Care and Support Alliance mass lobby of Parliament happening tomorrow (6th March).  We’re expecting about 1,000 people to descend upon Parliament to lobby their MPs. They want to tell their MPs know that they care about how the care and support system is failing them, their friends or relatives and to call for change.

The reason we’re lobbying is that social care is in crisis.  The current system has been underfunded for decades, which means that demand for services outstrips the available care from Local Authorities.  Some people face losing their homes and savings because of soaring care bills and many disabled people are unable to get the support they need to live their lives independently and be part of society.

Many families providing care are being pushed to breaking point because of a lack of support.  And because there is not enough to go around services are rationed, charges are high and many people simply go without the care they need to live independently.

We are calling on the Government to make care reform a priority.  In the current economic climate it will be too easy for the Government to shy away from making tough decisions about the future of social care. We need to show MPs how important it is that Government addresses the failings in the current system.

 Take action!

We’d love to see you tomorrow at the lobby itself.  Come to Church House after 2pm to register.

Alternatively if you can’t be there in person, you can take part in our Twobby– the world’s first Twitter lobby!  We’re inviting people to Tweet their MP with a question about social care and showing your support for the campaign.  We’re hoping that we can get the hashtag #twobby trending so that more people than ever get behind the campaign and put pressure on the Government to reform the system.  There’s loads more information here about how you get involved.

Tomorrow is a great opportunity to take action to end the care crisis. Age UK’s vision is of a system where all older people who need it receive high quality social care that enables them to live with dignity and gives them the ability to plan ahead.  We hope that tomorrow will bring us one step closer to making that vision a reality.

Find out about more about the mass lobby and twobby

Read our guide to twitter

Care in crisis – urgent action needed

Last week Age UK launched its Care in Crisis campaign in order to highlight to Government to widespread support for urgent reform of the social care system.

Social care is currently in crisis and is letting people down.  Across England eligibility thresholds are being restricted, charges are increasing and services squeezed.

Currently around 800,000 older people in need of care and support don’t get any formal help. This shocking figure shows just how serious the crisis has become.

For those people able to access services, the support they receive is too often inadequate or poor quality leaving them without the care they need to live safely and with dignity.

Without urgent action this crisis will continue.

So last week Age UK launched its Care in Crisis campaign and petition urging the Government to grasp this opportunity for far-reaching and sustainable reform of the care system. Continue reading “Care in crisis – urgent action needed”

A stride in the right direction

Here’s hoping the 4th July 2011 will go down in history.  The day that Andrew Dilnot made successful recommendations for long term care reform, that the Government accepted, took forward in legislation and were implemented with pace.

We have a long way to go before we can claim success, but Dilnot’s proposals for reform are a good start towards this goal.

Andrew Dilnot was given the unenviable task of proposing recommendations which would create a better care system, one which was more sustainable, fair, easier to understand and affordable.  He has worked meticulously, gathering evidence, statistics, views from the general public and from stakeholders such as Age UK.  In subsequent blogs I will look at each of the tests in more detail, but here are some initial reactions to his proposals:

1. We welcome that Dilnot has called for more national funding – between £1.3bn and £2.2bn.  Without investment in social care any reform will not be sustainable and is liable to run into future difficulties.  We have repeated throughout this process that the Government cannot afford not to reform care, and that by investing in better essential services the Government will save more in health, housing and welfare interventions.  We know there will be a big debate about where this money comes from, but these issues can be answered.

2. We also welcome the increased certainty this package of proposals sets out.  Whilst £35k is not insubstantial, the reality is that many people pay more than this currently for their care, and those that don’t are fearful they might have to.  What the cap does is take the guessing game out of care and encourages people to plan ahead and to think about their future.  It’s one of the big disincentives in the current system and the cap will remove this. Continue reading “A stride in the right direction”

Launch of Care in Crisis campaign

The heat is on for social care. In recent days and weeks we have seen increasing coverage of issues showing how social care is creaking at the seams, and worse, that it often fails to support the most vulnerable people it is there for.  Stories of unmet need, abuse and market failure are rebounding in media outlets usually quiet on these issues.

Age UK has recently published its Care in Crisis report which shows the extent of the underfunding and level of demand that is facing social care, and we predict that it will only become more stretched in the months and years to come.

We will see unprecedented budget cuts to social care in the next few years (despite the extra £2bn from the Government to boost the shortfall) and the number of older people over 85 will increase by 66% in the same timeframe.  Demand will increase and supply will decrease, adding more pressure to an already overloaded system.

Which means now, more than ever, it’s critical that we have a successful proposal for reform, followed by concrete and decisive action by Government.  Age UK is looking forward to the early July publication of Andrew Dilnot’s proposals for the future funding of care and support.

Indeed this is our major beacon of hope – similar commissions have tried and failed to kickstart reform and these opportunities are rare.  It is vital that Dilnot’s recommendations are serious contenders for a future funding model so that in future we can be proud of our care system. Continue reading “Launch of Care in Crisis campaign”

Reforming care services when times are tight

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Creative Commons

In September last year, Westminster City Council took a brave decision to let seven social care experts loose to investigate the way that the council ran and funded its social care services. Through the establishment of a Commission, the brief was to identify the ways that the council could improve services, use fewer resources more wisely and improve outcomes for its service users. The Commission heard evidence from officers in the council, local voluntary organisations and representatives from the Primary Care Trust and local GP consortia, as well as making visits to social care sites. I represented Age UK on the group of Commissioners.

This Westminster Social Care Commission, chaired by Baroness Sally Greengross, published its report last week.

The report makes 40 recommendations, one of which concerns the professional contact time with service users. In fact, it was found that typically a professional will spend only one-third of their time with service users, and the rest of their day on administration. Whilst the Commission acknowledges that there has to be reasonable time spent setting up care packages, travelling and on general administration, these proportions are all wrong. Time with service users has to be the priority for professionals. It is also suggested that Westminster take a more proportionate approach to assessment. Continue reading “Reforming care services when times are tight”

Flexibility versus protection – the new social care outcomes framework

Last Tuesday the nation might be forgiven for thinking that the news of the day was the royal marriage announcement.  Only the sharp-eyed will have caught the news about the Department of Health’s ‘vision for social care’ and outcomes framework.

The Department of Health steers the tricky course between the nightmare icebergs: over-regulation leading to a stunted, over-bureaucratic, box-ticking system where the service user is a long way down the list of priorities; or under-regulation where the service user is left to arrange care with no confidence about the services available, relying on their personal tenacity and energy of family and friends to check that services are going OK.  Continue reading “Flexibility versus protection – the new social care outcomes framework”

Progress on personalisation?

Last week’s Audit Commission publication of Financial management of personal budgets: challenges and opportunities for councils shows that there is still progress to be made in rolling out personal budgets across the board, and especially amongst older people. Only six councils have met the target of 30% of those eligible for social care to receive a personal budget (and a smaller proportion still receive this money as a cash payment). There is huge progress to be made before April 2011.

The report makes the valid point that personal budgets are not cost-saving in comparison to traditional services, and luckily councils involved in the research seem to have taken on the message.

There are some challenges for councils, not least to ensure their internal procedures and processes are capable of dealing with the requirements of a person-centred approach to care. The report also highlights that councils should be prepared to be flexible in the use of their Resource Allocation Systems which work out how much money can be used to meet someone’s needs. Councils should be prepared to increase the budget, using the Resource Allocation System suggested figure as a good initial ball-park. Coventry’s outcomes-based model of assessing what support someone needs is the way forward, but I wonder whether many other councils will take this on? It involves a reversal of the traditional ways of assessing someone.

However, what the report doesn’t mention is what councils have been doing to persuade those who need care and support that these budgets are a good idea. Mention is made of the attitude of staff being paramount, but this idea is not explored to see whether this might be the root of the lack of take up.

There is also very little mention of people’s rights and entitlements in social care. Unfashionable in today’s choice-and-DIY-social-care landscape, but nonetheless, a statutory responsibility that can’t be wriggled out of if councils provide services. The report talks about brokerage and care management as though the two are the same. This is a fundamental distinction, as care management is part of the statutory duty of the council, brokerage could be a charged-for service. It makes you wonder whether people are being charged incorrectly for care management?

Back to the 30% target. A bit of me can’t help wonder if personal budgets are not the rip-roaring success for older people that they were branded to be simply because for many people they do not work? There’s a world of difference between a younger physically disabled person using a personal budget for their stable and predictable needs and an older person learning to cope with a new disability which they’re not used to. It’s not impossible for this to be achieved by older people, but it needs careful thought and a great deal of support from the council providing the budget or the care and support to the budget holder.

We expect the coalition government will push personal budgets even harder. Some councils are clearly well on the way to broad provision of care in this way but they are few and far between, the majority need to up their game.