Thursday, 17 January 2013

Isolated and Under Funded

How would you feel if you were unable to wash, dress and feed yourself without support yet that support was denied to you, you would be outraged, wouldn’t you, and certainly agree there was a crisis in the care system.

Talk of a crisis in care often evokes imagery of older people who need care and support as they age, of coping with life as the rigours of life take their toll on the body and mind. Yet new research, published today by five major charities, shows the crisis in care is much wider and that the needs of younger, disabled people are not being met.

The report, ‘The Other Care Crisis’ highlights the fact that nearly 40% of disabled people do not get sufficient support in their daily lives with such things as washing, dressing and eating. Also highlighted is the £1.2 million funding gap in social care support for the disabled under the age of 64 with services being withdrawn because of a lack of funding and the criteria for being entitled for support becoming ever tighter.

It does not stop there, the report estimates that more than 100,000 people will be affected by proposed Government reforms.

It is not just about the clinical financial practicalities of providing care and support, it is about individuals. Being unable to wash without support is bad enough yet the impact on self-esteem is immeasurable, ask yourself now, how do you feel when you are dirty? Being unable to feed yourself without support has much greater impact on health and well-being and while Ministers talk of ‘prevention’ to reduce hospital admissions etc it seems, from this report, that the rhetoric remains more important the any real action.

The most shocking revelation in the report was nearly half of those who were interviewed in the study said the lack of support they receive meant they were unable to take part in community life in a way they wanted to. Once again imagine yourself in that situation, how would it feel to be socially isolated and unable to take part in the activities you enjoyed, the opportunities to talk and engage with friends. Picture the impact such social isolation would have on your mental well-being and the general frustration with life that would start to eat away at you.

In fact just over half of those interviewed for the report stated they felt anxious, isolated or experienced declining mental health as a result of services being cut.

It is time Government, and the wider discourse of social care, changed. When there is talk of integrated services it often basically means integration between health and social care yet the needs of younger disabled peoples goes far beyond that. There needs to be integration with housing services, integration with employment services and integration with benefit services. The debate on social care must encompass all those who need help and support, including those under the age of 64.

There are many great schemes that have been developed over recent years, such as direct payments, but these depend on individuals actually meeting eligibility criteria and as this becomes tighter less and less people will actually be entitled (although Governments will claim success as the percentages will be higher because less people are entitled!).

Today’s report has to be commended for highlighting the care crisis does not just apply to older people nor does its solution solely rest on whether or not property needs to be sold to pay for care. For those under the age of 64 who have life-long conditions the current system is failing many of them.

Yes we live in austere times and economic sacrifices have to be made but that does not mean we should penalise those in society who need societies support to live their lives in a way most of us take for granted.

The report “The Other Care Crisis” has been produced by Scope, Mencap, National Autistic Society, Sense & Leonard Cheshire Disability and is available at