Social Care Ratings Mask Problems
Record-high scores for adult social services are being called into question as councils are limiting the people who can get access to them.
The Commission for Social Care Inspection showed services had improved for the sixth year in a row.
But the watchdog and campaigners said they were concerned that councils were restricting who was eligible to use services such as home care.
Councils said they were doing the best they could in difficult times.
The watchdog’s report revealed 56 of the 150 councils in the country were given the top three stars, 75 two stars and 19 one star.
For the third year in a row no council was given zero stars.
It meant that a fifth of councils went up a grade or more, while 7% deteriorated.
But the ratings only judge councils on the services they are providing, not the access they give to local residents.
In recent years, councils have responded to budgetary problems by restricting access to services such as home care, day service and respite care.
On last count, two thirds of local authorities only offered this support to those with substantial needs, which includes people needing round-the-clock help.
Experts predict that unless the system is changed or extra money pumped in no council will be helping out those with low or moderate level needs within a few years.
The watchdog felt concerned enough about this trend to flag up the problem even as they unveiled the record ratings.
It said people were being left to “struggle on with little or no help at all”.
Elizabeth McLennan, of Help the Aged, said the tightening restrictions were of great concern.
“These people get the worst possible service because they need to arrange and pay for care with no help at all from their council.”
And shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien said dithering over the reform of social care – delayed plans to revamp the system are expected early next year – had led to people being “forced to sell their houses”.
Councillor David Rogers, of the Local Government Association, which represents councils, admitted it was a difficult time because of the financial pressure.
But he said councils should be praised for providing good quality care where it can.
“These ratings are encouraging news for both the people concerned and councils that are changing the services that people use for the better.”
And care services minister Phil Hope said he was pleased with performance.