Social workers raise concern over care cuts
Published on 24 June 2013 10:00 AM
More than 90% of social workers worry that life will become more difficult for older people who need social care as frontline cuts start to bite, according to an Age UK/College of Social Work survey.
Seven out of 10 social workers questioned said cuts in frontline services are leaving older people more isolated with a reduced quality of life, while 80% reported the spending cuts were resulting in families unable to cope with the additional strain of caring responsibilities.
In the joint survey of more than 300 adult care social workers by Age UK and The College of Social Work, 94% said they have witnessed a squeeze on budgets for care services for older people over the last 3 years. And the cuts have not all been absorbed by efficiencies with 85% of respondents saying frontline services had been affected by the cuts.
There was a wide consensus from social workers (81%) that they are seeing negative impacts of cuts in social care spending - for example, reporting seeing families unable to cope with caring responsibilities.
Social workers also report seeing:
- older people ending up in hospital more frequently (63%)
- older people becoming more isolated (71%)
- older people having a reduced quality of life (72%)
Older people whose needs haven't changed get less help now than 2010
Where local authorities have frozen or reduced spending on adult care services in the last 3 years, the vast majority of social workers who responded to the survey (93.5 %) said they now see older people who would have qualified for care 3 years ago now not receiving it, with 79% of respondents saying older people whose needs have not changed get less help now than they would have done in 2010.
The survey also showed that Fair Access to Care Services criteria - in which older people's care needs are assessed as low, moderate, substantial or critical - are being used by local authorities to reduce care spending with 1 in 5 respondents saying that they were under pressure to minimise levels of need of older people so putting them under the eligibility threshold.
However, 26% of social workers also said that they now exaggerated older people's disabilities to ensure that they qualified for local authority support. Over a third (36%) of respondents said the threshold for eligibility for state-funded care at the local authority where they work is now higher than it was 3 years ago.
Investing in the most cost-effective model for delivering care
Bernard Walker, Chair of The College of Social Work Adults Faculty commented: 'Social workers are doing as much as they can to secure essential care and support services necessary to enable older people to live with dignity and in comfort in their own homes and communities. But they are alerting us to many incidents where even the very basic levels of care are either no longer available to many people or are being withdrawn altogether.
'As well as causing unnecessary suffering to many frail and lonely older people this situation is causing their care needs to escalate more quickly, increasing the burden on higher cost care services provided by the NHS.
'The College wholly supports the business case for investing in adult social care as it is the most cost effective model for ensuring society can afford to look after its ageing population with dignity and respect.'
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said: 'This survey is yet more evidence that the social care system is failing increasing numbers of older people.
'Inadequate social care leaves older people living miserable, isolated existences, their carers unable to cope, and all too often results in unnecessary and distressing hospital stays.
'Only by ensuring sustainable and adequate funding for a system that covers all those with at least moderate care needs can the Government begin to fulfil its vision of making Britain the best place to grow old in Europe.'