Leading disability organisations have voiced their concerns over some of the Government’s forthcoming plans as outlined in the Queen’s Speech earlier this week.
While there was a cautious welcome for the Care and Support Bill, which includes plans to bring in national eligibility criteria for social care, there are concerns over where the eligibility level will be set – and whether any Bill will make the intended impact without an injection of more funding from Government.
Other worries include potential further cuts to welfare and social care budgets in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review in June.
Care and Support Bill
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope and chair of the Care and Support Alliance, a consortium of some 70 organisations that represent and support older and disabled people, said: “The social care system is in deep crisis. The number of older people, disabled people and carers that need support is increasing. At the same time budgets are shrinking and social care is being rationed.
“The Care and Support Alliance welcomes the commitment from the Government to end the grossly unfair postcode lottery of the current system and introduce a lifetime cap on the costs of care. But there is a real danger that eligibility will be set at a level that excludes most people that need support to get up, get dressed and get out of the house.
“Legislation alone can’t solve the care crisis. The Care Bill needs to be accompanied by a much needed emergency injection of funds together with a long-term financial commitment ensuring that older, disabled, seriously ill people and their carers are supported by a fair and sustainable care system."
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, added: “The Government’s plans for social care have left disabled people in uncertainty for far too long, so [the] announcement of the Care and Support Bill is potentially good news.
“But with local authority budgets being squeezed and no announcement on how much the Government plans to invest in social care, serious concerns remain as to what will actually be delivered on the ground for people with autism.
“The new system must be financed in a sound and sustainable way and provide the right support at the right time, and not just to those who have the severest needs. Many people with autism need help with day-to-day activities like getting washed and dressed, and support must be offered to these people from the outset rather than waiting until they plunge into crisis and need more costly assistance.
“The Bill is a step in the right direction but there is still a long way to go until we have a cost effective and equitable social care system.”
Benefit cap worries
Emma Harrison, Mencap spokesperson, warned the Government against making further cuts to welfare benefits: “Mencap is very concerned that the Government, in its commitment to “work to promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard, and pay their fair share”, risks forgetting those of us with disabilities who simply can’t work; ignoring those who employers don't want to employ due to their disability and those who save the country millions by caring for disabled relatives.
“We fear that there is more to come on top of the £18 billion cuts to the welfare budget already announced.
“In June’s Comprehensive Spending Review it is widely expected that the Government will introduce a cap on benefit spending and that those who cannot work, including disabled people, will be hit yet again.
“Just because you are of working age, it doesn’t mean that you can work. Many disabled people feel that they are paying the price for the on-going economic downturn.”