Points System Recommended For Social Care Needs

A national points system to ration care for millions of older and disabled people was recommended yesterday by the head of the social care inspectorate in England.

Dame Denise Platt, chairwoman of the Commission for Social Care Inspection, described the present system of deciding who is eligible for care as “so flawed and heavily criticised that immediate changes are needed”.

About 1.75 million older people and adults with disabilities or learning difficulties receive care from local authorities, including help with dressing, washing, eating and other essential daily routines. Millions of other vulnerable adults get no help because the local council decides they are not incapacitated enough to need help from the overstretched budget.

Platt was asked by the government in January to review the “postcode lottery of care” that was created by councils setting different eligibility requirements.

Announcing the results yesterday, she said: “People and their families experience stress and bewilderment trying to get the care they need. The complex systems for determining how they might be helped defeat many.”

She said the government should introduce a national points system for determining people’s needs. It would provide “a clearer, simpler framework for deciding who is a priority for publicly funded support”.

Local authorities would remain responsible for deciding how much to spend on social care, but everyone in future would have a fair share.

People should have the right to an assessment of their care needs. The most vulnerable would be deemed in need of “immediate intervention”. People whose wellbeing might be at risk within six months would be registered for “early intervention”. People at risk within a year would be candidates for “longer-term intervention”.

Platt said: “We recognise the size of the [social care] cake is limited, whilst the number of people who want a slice is increasing. In the long term, there is no alternative to radical reform of the way the social care system is funded.”

Gordon Lishman, director general of the charity Age Concern, said: “Measures to cut the cake more fairly are welcome, but what is really needed is a much bigger cake for social care.”

Dame Jo Williams, chief executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, backed the proposal to end the postcode lottery. But she added: “Any improvements will be futile without the money to back them up.”

Phil Hope, the health minister responsible for care services, welcomed the commission’s analysis of the problem, but postponed commenting until next year. He said: “We are holding a national debate on the future of the care and support system, which will lead to a green paper. The question of a national funding formula cannot be separated from this work, so we will consider it as part of that debate.”