When Help is Needed

Is looking after vulnerable older people or people with disabilities a political priority, at least in the U.K.? It would seem not. Perhaps Spain is better at caring for people who may be losing their ability to manage their lives without the help of others. The director general of Age Concern has recently said that chronic under-funding of home care services means people are being deprived of help until they reach crisis point. He says, ‘central government funding has not kept pace with the demands of an ageing population. Confirming this, David Rogers, the chairman of Age Concern’s community well- being, challenges the government to treat with urgency the long-term overhaul of future funding of adult care services.

The Commission for Social Care has found that 73% of local authorities are planning to refuse care to everyone who whose needs are not considered to be ‘substantial’. Apparently ‘substantial’ is defined as covering people who may not be able to carry out the majority of their personal care and domestic routines, and have no one to provide voluntary help.

It excludes people who are not able to carry out several normal activities such as getting up in the morning and bathing. The C.S.C.I. have found out that four authorities in the U. K. intend to ration services even more tightly, so that only people whose life is in danger or may suffer from abuse will be eligible. A London Borough is going the same way and one wonders how many other Councils will follow.

The charity Mencap, with its brief to speak for and support people with learning difficulties, has the same concern. Their chief executive, Jo Williams, has said ‘ it is unacceptable in the U.K. in the 21st century that local authorities are refusing support to very vulnerable people…last month the government gave an increase of less that 1% for social services.

Given rises in demand, we will just see more and more cash-strapped councils cutting back.’ The tightening up of council funding has meant that this year the number of householders across England receiving care fell from 528,500 to 345,000, despite the growing number of older people.

I see from their website that the Department of Health says that it’s purpose is ‘to define policy and guidance for delivering a social care system that provides care equally for all, whilst enabling people to retain their independence, control and dignity’. With a mission statement like that, the Department is clearly without either the will or resources to fulfil it. It confirms my belief that the ‘grey’ vote needs to raise its profile and if no one else will lobby for basic needs that at some time will affect everyone, we have to speak for ourselves.