Pensioners Stripped Of Home Help

Pensioners are being stripped of home services they need to live independent lives, say support groups. Pressure social services budgets means fewer pensioners are now eligible to receive specialist support at home, such as cleaning, transport, washing and dressing. Norfolk County Council has been highlighted by national charity Counsel And Care for raising its eligibility criteria to the two top levels of substantial and critical needs. That means only people whose lives are threatened, who have significant health problems or are unable to carry out the majority of their personal care or domestic routines are still entitled to specialist social care.

But those with moderate needs, including pensioners unable to carry out several personal care or domestic routines and those unable to undertake family and social responsibilities, will now be denied services.

A charity spokesman said: “The survey paints a worrying picture of future service provision, as increasing pressure on both NHS and social services budgets has resulted in a reduction in the number of older people who receive services.”

Brenda Arthur, chief executive of Age Concern Norwich, said many pensioners now being denied home care couldn’t wash their net curtains or clean their homes. Many ended up depressed because they did not feel comfortable having people in their homes.

“They might have mobility problems and not be able to bend down and prepare food. But they are not entitled to Meals on Wheels,” she said. “Some of them can’t carry their shopping. Many of them end up paying for private services or relying on voluntary organisations.”

She said she blamed the government for not giving enough cash to councils, but added that some old people in need of services may be eligible for benefits such as attendance allowance.

Harold Bodmer, director of adult social services, said the council had raised its eligibility criteria in 2004 in order to ensure resources were targeted properly. He said the equivalent of Meals on Wheels could be obtained by shopping online. “This is a real issue for Norfolk where we have an increasing population of older people and increasing pressure on our budget.

“We recognise that people who do not fit the eligibility criteria need support. That is why we were successful in bringing £3.6m of government funding into Norfolk through the At Home, Not Alone project.”

This cash will be used over the next two years to set up a range of services for older people in Norfolk to enable them to remain independent and live longer in their own homes. It will include advice, help with falls, handymen and tele-shopping – but not Meals on Wheels or specialist home care.

Chris Mowle, cabinet member for adult social services, said: “We do have a proviso to give old people a service if they will go into a critical state if we don’t. But the problem is the lack of funding from Government.”

Specialist home care services were provided for 5,599 people in the county this year. Of those, 46pc received the service for free and the rest paid £13.10 per hour.

The number of people aged over 85 in the county is predicted to rise by 50 per cent over the next 10 years. Neighbouring Suffolk has also raised its eligibility criteria.