Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Concerns about social care

We have an ageing population. People with chronic health problems are living longer.

A recent survey of councils about the challenges of providing care and support for elderly citizens demonstrated the scale of the challenge ahead. These demographic changes are increasing the pressure on services. One council was predicting a 70% increase in residents aged 75+, whilst another was expecting a 44% increase in residents aged over 90.

It is clear that these increases in demand cannot be met by expanding services when budgets are being cut. There are three main ways in which a council can maximise the services provided through the social care budget. It can raise charges, tighten eligibility and re-shape the way in which care is provided.

The survey showed that 88% of councils were increasing charges this year – most above the rate of inflation. Government ministers talk a lot about council tax levels, but they don’t like to talk about increasing charges.

16% of councils were tightening the eligibility criteria for receiving care. This might seem quite a small proportion, until you realise that the majority of councils are already meeting only substantial and critical need. They already have no room left to manoeuvre. It appears that, in the near future, just about every council will only offer support to those requiring substantial and critical. People who have previously been supported will no longer be eligible or will get a significant reduction in their support.

63% of councils are already closing care homes and/or day centres and more expect to follow in the next couple of years. More people will be supported in their own homes – which may be a good thing. However, it is clear that some people who really need 24 hour support in residential care will not get it in future.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, given all the Prime Minister’s talk about the role of voluntary organisations in his Big Society is that more than 50% of councils are cutting their financial support to the voluntary sector providing care services and another 25% expect to do this in the next year. Locally, in Sheffield, the council is making 15% cash cuts to the voluntary sector this year and is closing both residential homes and cutting day-care.

So, elderly people in need of support can look forward to increased charges and less support in future. This is one of the real impacts of the cuts that are now being made. I just wish Ministers would be honest about what the budget cuts really mean.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Betts says lettings policy implementation is unfair to those who wait

Clive Betts MP [Sheffield South East] has challenged Sheffield City Council on its lettings policies which discriminate against people who have been on the waiting-list a long time.

He has written today to the SCC Chief Executive asking him to urgently review what is actually happening to re-housing in various parts of the city and to ensure that the spirit of SCC’s own re-housing policies are implemented.

Clive Betts used the example of David Pemberton and his partner Helen Barnsley, who have been on the waiting-list for re-housing for twenty years, but are prevented from securing a home in Hackenthorpe.

Clive Betts said:
“I have always supported a lettings’ policy which gives a fair deal to people who have spent a long time on the waiting list, either to be offered their first home or for a transfer.

I opposed changes to the lettings policy which gave less weight to the length of time people had been waiting. But, it is clear to me that, in practice, in certain parts of the city, those on the waiting-list are being given absolutely no opportunity at all to be re-housed.”

In Hackethorpe, priority for re-housing is being given to households whose homes are being demolished. But, if a home in the area is not wanted by those households, it is being offered to those with other forms of priority.

Effectively, this means that those with waiting-time only will not be allowed to bid for a home.”

Clive Betts said:
“The way in which the re-housing policy is being implemented runs contrary to the actual policy which states that ‘one in four properties can be offered to people with waiting-time only’.

But, in areas like Hackenthorpe, good people like David Pemberton and Helen Barnsley, who have been waiting years for a home, are effectively being denied from ever being re-housed.

It is absolutely right that people who have to be re-housed because of demolition. It is absolutely wrong that homes which are not required for that purpose will never be offered to people who have waiting-time only. This is completely contrary to the guiding principles and spirit of the letting policies.”

Clive Betts continued:
“It is now more than 12 months since I pressed this issue with the relevant council officers.

Now, after months of waiting – and despite repeated requests for a proper response to the issues I’d been raising - I’ve received a reply simply saying that the policy is being implemented correctly.

If the policy is being implemented correctly, something is going badly wrong.

I have today written to the Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council asking for an urgent review of the situation.”