Two In Three Town Halls Cutting Back On Home Help For Elderly

Most frail elderly people who need help with washing, cleaning and shopping are no longer getting it, a watchdog has said. Two thirds of the town halls responsible for providing home help to the elderly only provide it to those with the most serious problems, it said. The figures from the Government body charged with checking the standards of care homes and social workers add to growing evidence that growing numbers of older people are losing their home helps and meals on wheels.

They follow a report earlier this autumn which found that in the past year alone a third of local councils have cut back on the amount of help they give to the elderly.

As highlighted by the Daily Mail’s Dignity for the Elderly campaign, local authorities have been cutting back on help to old people at home amid growing cash pressures.

Town halls warned earlier this week that further cuts are likely unless they are bailed out with more billions from the Treasury. The reduction of help for old people means many thousands are likely to be forced to give up living independently and move into care homes. Those with savings or who own property are then likely to join the 70,000 a year forced to sell their homes to pay the high bills of residential care.

Ealier the Commission for Social Care Inspection said in a report that people with less demanding illnesses and difficulties are now going without help from social services in most of the country. “While eligibility criteria may be transparent and fair for those people who qualify for services, in many instances the thresholds for accessing services are high.”

It added: “For nearly two thirds of councils the threshold for care-managed services was set at “substantial” in 2006 and a number of councils are expecting to raise their eligibility thresholds in 2007.”

To qualify as having substantial needs, an elderly individual need to be incapable of carrying out most everyday household functions like washing, getting up, getting dressed, cleaning, cooking and shopping. When social workers give help only to those with substantial or greater needs, they leave those with “moderate” problems beyond their net.

That means those who have trouble with “several” household tasks do not get help. The findings brought a protest from another Government watchdog body, the Disability Rights Commission, which said “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.”

Its chairman Bert Massie called the cutbacks the “care gap” and added: “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 Britaintoday our social support to disabled people is being whittled away by stealth.”

According to a report this autumn by the charity Counsel and Care, which was based on information supplied by councils, one in three have cut back on home help to older people. Another report last month by the CSCI also found that many social services departments set a 15-minute limit on the time home helps may spend working for any one older person or couple. It called this “undignified and unsafe”.

Around 350,000 people now get help to live at home, a drop of more than 150,000 over the past decade.

Earlier this year an influential report by former Treasury troubleshooter Sir Derek Wanless said the state should spend billions extra on help for older people at in their own homes to reduce the need for them to go into residential care. He said there was a “perverse” pressure from some social workers for elderly people to go into care homes rather than continue to live independently. It operates because when someone goes into a care home, the local council can make them sell their home to pay the bills – and spare itself the cost of their are.