Councils cut back on free adult social care

Woman helping an elderly man to his door Some authorities say they have no option but to cut one of their biggest areas of spending

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The number of councils in England cutting back on free adult social care has increased by 13% this year, a survey has suggested.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services study found just 26 out of 148 councils would fund people in "moderate" or "low" need, down from 41.

The moves follow a sharp reduction in central funding for local authorities.

However, the government said it had recently allocated an extra £2bn a year by 2014-15 for social care services.

Taking bath

The survey revealed that 19 local authorities had raised the eligibility bar for free adult social care.

Only 22 councils in England out of the 148 which responded will now fund those assessed as having moderate needs, down from 36 last year.

This category includes people who are so ill or disabled that they have trouble preparing a meal for themselves or taking a bath.

Six councils have now opted to limit help to people in "critical' need, which includes those suffering from life threatening conditions.

Some authorities say the need to save money has left them with no option but to cut one of their biggest areas of spending.

Andrew Harrop, of the charity Age UK, said people could die as a result of the cuts and many more may land up in hospital unnecessarily.

The government has set up an independent commission on social care, which is due to report in July, and will put forward plans in a White Paper by the end of the year.

'Most vulnerable'

Andrew Dilnott, chairman of the commission, said there was no doubt that social care was being squeezed and there was "a growing amount of unmet need".

He said the current system seemed to "invite variability" and "there was merit in trying to find an assessment system... that seems to give people more of a sense that there was fairness and equality across the UK".

But he said regardless of the cuts, the system needed to be reformed.

"The balance between individual responsibility and state responsibility that we have at the moment doesn't seem to be the right one, it's widely seen to be unfair.

"What we found is that many people think it wouldn't be unreasonable for them to make some contribution.

"They just don't want the system that they face at the moment where if they turn out to be one of the least fortunate who ends up needing a very great deal of care, that they lose everything," he said.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: "The government is putting an extra £2bn into supporting social care by 2014 and there is an unprecedented transfer of cash support from the NHS to social care.

"But we know this is just a sticking plaster solution for a funding system that is broken and beyond quick fixes.

"That is why the government acted quickly to set up the Dilnot Commission on funding. It is why we are determined to put in place a lasting and fair settlement to the funding question."

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