Social workers say older people suffer as cuts to frontline care services continue
Caring Times, July/August 2013
More than 90% of social workers worry that life will become more difficult for older people because of frontline cuts in social care according to an Age UK/College of Social Work survey.
Seven out of 10 respondents said cuts in frontline services were leaving older people more isolated and 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 had witnessed a squeeze on budgets for care services for older people over the last three years. And the cuts have not all been absorbed by efficiencies with 85% of respondents saying frontline services had been affected.
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%) and having a reduced quality of life (72%).
Where local authorities have frozen or reduced spending on adult care services in the last three 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 three years ago now not receiving it, with 79% of respondents saying older people whose needs had 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 – were being used by local authorities to reduce care spending with one in five 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 said that they now exaggerated older people’s disabilities to ensure that they qualified for local authority support. More than a third (36%) of respondents said the threshold for eligibility for state-funded care at the local authority where they work was now higher than it was three years ago.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK said the survey was yet more evidence that the social care system is failing increasing numbers of older people.
“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” said Ms Mitchell.