Social Care Annual Audit Underlines The Need For Independent Living Bill

The annual report by the Commission for Social Care Inspection on social services in England underlines the urgent need for guaranteed, minimum standards of support, says the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). The report, which was released today, illustrates the growing “care gap” between those who need care and those actually receiving it.

This gap is widening as more and more people are shifted from NHS care to become the responsibility of social services without accompanying funding. As a result, local councils are being forced to tighten their criteria for eligibility for social support, leaving many without the level of support they have had in the past.

DRC Chairman Bert Massie said the best way to close the care gap is through the adoption of Lord Ashley of Stoke’s Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill, which was re-introduced in the House of Lords earlier this week.

Mr Massie said: “Rationing is now the formal policy of our social care agencies and that means that disabled people and people with long-term health conditions are being deemed either more or less deserving of support. If this happened in our health service, there would be an outcry, but in Britain today our social support to disabled people is being whittled away by stealth.”

The current system is leaving millions of people with no control over their lives.

  • Many disabled people and people with long-term health conditions are without support enabling them to get out of bed, use the toilet or eat. Many cannot leave their homes to visit friends or family;
  • More than a million disabled people and people with long-term health conditions are living in unsuitable housing;
  • 320,000 people are living in residential care homes, many against their wishes, with no right or power to fight local authority decisions placing them there;
  • A further 9,000 young adults are inappropriately housed.

Seven out of 10 local authorities admit to only offering services to people whose needs are judged to be “critical” or “substantial,” with eight in 10 of the same authorities expecting to further tighten their eligibility criteria next year. This will place additional demands on voluntary carers to meet the care gap. But a recent DRC/Ipsos MORI survey revealed that younger generations are less likely to give up work and assume unpaid caring roles.

The MORI survey’s findings are in stark contrast to the public’s own expectations about the type and quality of support they expect to receive from social care services. The survey also found that the overwhelming majority expected to be able to make decisions affecting them if they developed a disability or long-term health condition. Nearly 90 per cent said that they expected to be able to choose whether or not to live in residential care.

Commenting on the need to transform social care in to ensure independence and choice for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, Lord Ashley said: “Independent Living is not simply disabled people doing everything for themselves. It means ensuring that disabled people have the same freedom to choose as every other citizen and are supported in that choice, in order that they may lead the lives they want to lead. Independent living is having the opportunity to enjoy family life and participate in all the everyday activities which non-disabled people take for granted.

”While the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and its later revisions have strengthened the civil rights of disabled people, other laws – particularly community care legislation – have put too many barriers in the way of independent living. I want to use the power of Parliament to bring in new legislation which will sweep away these barriers and make independent living a reality for all disabled people.”