Over 450,000 infirm older and disabled people who would until recently have received state-funded care have been shut out of the system because of pressure to cut numbers, a report has warned.
More than a third are now excluded because social workers have been ordered to apply tougher eligibility tests unofficially, according to the study, published as MPs prepare to debate the coalition Government’s long-awaited overhaul of care.
The biggest reform of the care and support system since the creation of the welfare state in 1948 is being shepherded through Parliament by Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt. It was the brainchild of his predecessor, Andrew Lansley.
But the Care and Support Alliance, an umbrella group of 75 charities which commissioned the report, warned the initial good intention of overhauling the system is at risk of being completely undermined by a ‘black hole’ in funding for social care.
The study, by researchers at the London School of Economics, said 36% of those who would have had some help with basic tasks such as washing and dressing less than a decade ago are now left to fend for themselves.
Official NHS figures showed the number of people in England receiving some form of social care has dropped from almost 1.3 million five years ago to 928,000 now – despite a rapid growth in the population of older people.
When demographic and social changes are factored in, the report concluded there are 453,000 people currently not receiving any help who would have done if tests applied in 2006 were applied now – a drop of 36%.
And among older people the decline was as much as 39% – the equivalent of 333,000 fewer older people receiving care than would have been the case.
It described cuts in the last two years alone as ‘without precedent in the history of adult social care’.
It said the sheer speed at which people have been excluded from the social care system outstrips the rate at which rules have been tightened up.
The report suggested the only explanation is that social workers who assess people to decide whether they are frail enough to need care are under pressure to operate an extra ‘implicit criteria’ – meaning that they are being urged to apply an even more strict interpretation than the published rules might suggest.