Dan Parton writes (16th March 2011) : I know it is rapidly becoming a cliché, but these really areworrying times for social care. For some time now people have beenworried about employment and support allowance reform, disabilityliving allowance reform, changes to housing benefit, localauthority social care eligibility criteria being ramped up… I couldgo on. And on. But now comes something else to worry about - andthis one is shocking. A new consultation from the Department forCommunities and Local Government is reviewing all social careduties placed on local authorities by government, as part of awide-ranging review. The idea is that the move will give localauthorities "freedom to operate in a way that meets local needs andpriorities" and the public is being asked to judge which dutiesshould be abolished and which should be kept. Essentially, thismeans that in future, if this is passed, councils may not beobligated to do anything to help people with learning disabilities- or any disability or mental health problem, for that matter. Thishas been snuck out to little fanfare - possibly because thegovernment is aware of the outcry it could cause. But oddly, manyof the major news organisations haven't picked it up, either. Atfirst, I thought I had misread it. Surely the government couldn'tbe thinking about getting rid of statutory social care duties?Wouldn't that take us back to pre-welfare state days? At a strokeundoing rights that social care organisations and service users hadtaken decades to fight for? Apparently not. The fact the governmentis even thinking about it is shocking. And if they are thinkingabout it then it could happen. It is also part of communitiesminister Eric Pickles' drive to cut council bureaucracy. Councilsare famed for being over-bureaucratic and while there are no doubtsome functions that could be cut, lumping in crucial services likesocial care and child safeguarding seems absurd. Indeed, if any ofthe social care functions were taken off the statutory duty list, Idon't see how it could not adversely affect service users. Wherewould, for example, new service users go? Where would they getfunding for services? Would councils suddenly axe services/supportand leave service users cut adrift? You would hope not but thesedays you can never be sure. I assume this will be spun as part ofthe personalisation/Big Society drive for localising services andgiving everyone 'choice and control' over their care. In this case,'choice and control' could be substituted for 'fend for yourself'.Assumedly, in this case private companies would be expected to stepinto the gap left by local authority services - privatisation bythe back door. However, lets not get carried away here; this isonly a consultation and it may not come to pass. Also, according toa report on Community Care
, to do this would be illegal. Let's hope soand this idea is consigned to the dustbin - where is should haveended up in the first place. The consultation can be found here
. It is open until April 25 for anyone to post theirthoughts on the proposals.