Richard Kramer, Deputy Chief Executive at the Deafblind charity Sense highlights the importance of social care for deafblind and disabled people
Last year was incredibly challenging for many deafblind and disabled people. Changes to the welfare system including the transfer from DLA to PIP and ongoing issues with Work Capability Assessments and Employment Support Allowance have left many struggling financially. But the biggest struggle for many is getting the support they need from social care.
When we talk about social care it is essential that we don’t just limit our thinking to helping people get washed and dressed or cooking meals. This kind of support is vital for many, but it isn’t where it ends. Deafblind people will often need a much broader range of support; communicator guides to help them move around safely and have the opportunity to get out the house or perhaps the support of an interpreter to help communicate with friends are just 2 examples. Social care can support many different aspects of a person’s life, from basic needs to ensure that they have a social life and the opportunity to make and maintain friendships. This broader support is essential for an individual’s emotional and physical wellbeing and should not be overlooked.
At the end of 2014 the Care Act was introduced, a landmark piece of legislation for social care. For the first time, it looks at both health and social care and crucially takes in to account the general wellbeing of those that need social care. However, there are several barriers that might prevent it from fulfilling this.
Eligibility is a long term issue in social care. This means that those who are considered not to have a high enough level of need, will not receive any support. All too often the bar is set far too high. In fact, a recent study by the London School of Economics (LSE) showed that there are 500,000 people who would have got care in 2009 but are no longer receiving it. Their needs may have not changed, but the threshold at which social care is set means that people can’t get into the system of social care in the first place.
This rationing of social care is a false economy. Social care has a central role in delivering cost-effective, early intervention services. As people struggle on without the care they need they might become more susceptible to falls, or struggle with nutrition and a healthy diet, leading to hospital admissions and an increased burden on the NHS. This winter overcrowded A&E department’s hospital waiting times and delays in hospital discharge have remained high on the media agenda. Without a social care system fit for purpose this will continue.
One of the main barriers to the Care Act fulfilling its potential is funding. If the central government does not release enough funds to local authorities to fully implement the Act it will be built on sand. The NHS is high on the public agenda, and it will be a key issue for the general election in 2015. However, social care will not feature as highly and as a result, securing the funding will always be a challenge.
As the population ages, the number of people who rely on social care for support will increase. This makes it an issue for us all. We need to get social care right for the future and in order to do this it must be higher up the political agenda.
Deputy Chief Executive