Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958

'Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person... Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.' Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958

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Thursday, 12 July 2012

Spartacus: Why you should be worried about Worcestershire

Worcestershire County Council are consulting on a policy to cap adult social care expenditure at the cost of a care home placement.  This will force thousands of care service users to choose between living with unmet care needs, or moving out of their homes and into an institution.  Worcestershire's consultation is scant on detail, it does not discuss the savings it proposes to make and it does not explain how it will address the huge equality and human rights issues raised by this policy.  This policy, if passed, would set a very worrying precedent for the rest of the country.  The Spartacus Campaign have produced a reporta summary report  and a blog post expressing their concerns.  You can respond to the consultation here.
Worcestershire County Council (WCC) are consulting on a policy to cap the maximum cost it will spend on care services at the cost of placing a person in a care home. If you feel bothered by this proposal, it would be great if you respond to Worcestershire's consultation on it, and perhaps your MP as well. Contact details for both follow below.



Local authorities have legal obligations to ensure that people in their area's care needs are met.  Where people have independent wealth, or where they are supported by their friends and families, then the local authority has no obligation to offer support.  But where people have no other way of meeting their care needs, then local authorities are obliged to provide services.  They can do this either through offering support to a person to enable them to live in their own home, or through offering them a place in a residential care home.

The difference that receiving support in your own home can make can be enormous.  There is no guarantee that a local authority will place you in a care home that is near your family, friends and community, or even in the county.  Care home regimes can offer limited freedom in contrast with the freedoms people enjoy in their own homes, and displacement to a care home can be disorienting, distressing and result in loss of skills and decline of health.  Disabled and older people are capable of leading independent and fulfilling lives if they have access to the right support; placement in a care home could deny them many opportunities.  To give you one inspirational example, Baroness Jane Campbell is a well respected disabled peer in the House of Lords, in this article she describes here how her ability to work as a peer depends upon support from care services.  She writes:
'If my local authority cuts my care package or demands I transfer to NHS care (because they regard using a ventilator as the trigger for health services), I lose control of my life. I might have to leave parliament, or give up work altogether (because I need social care direct payments to do everything, from eating a sandwich to delivering a speech). I am only a few bureaucratic decisions away from returning to the inequality I endured at 18.'

Worcestershire's proposal means that people like Baroness Campbell living in Worcestershire may face a horrendous choice between living with unmet care needs, or moving into residential care - away from their homes, families, communities and perhaps their jobs as well.  Of course, some people's care needs can only be met in a service that provide round the clock support, but many people would be forced to move into care homes when they were capable of living more independent lives in their own homes.  A secondary consideration is that when one receives care services in one's own home, the charges are only levied against income.  When a person moves into residential care, local authorities can compel a person to sell their home to pay for the service.

This policy sets back progress on the rights of disabled and older people by decades. It will have major human rights implications. And it will have major financial implications. Yet Worcestershire County Council have not even given any costings for how much this policy will save them, have not demonstrated that such savings are urgently necessary or discussed what other options they have considered. I asked Worcestershire for this information and more three weeks ago and received no reply. This truly is a very poor quality consultation; others have been struck down by the courts for failing to provide this information. Nowhere else in the country currently operates a policy like this, but if Worcestershire's goes through it will set a very dangerous precedent indeed.

Please consider reading the reports that the Spartacus Campaign have compiled on this proposal, and writing to Worcestershire Council to express your concerns.  

Here's how to respond to the Consultation

Worcestershire only supply a postal address for responses:
Freepost SWC 1253
Worcestershire County Council
ACS – MEP
County Hall, Spetchley Road,
Worcester, WR5 2NP
However, the council confirmed to me (via twitter) that you can send your responses to this email address, but please mark your email clearly "MEP Consultation Reponse" acsengagement@worcestershire.gov.uk.

If you live in Worcestershire and would like to contact your MP, their contact details can be found here:
http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/

In the news

Disability rights campaigner and Spartaci Sue Marsh has written a brilliant comment piece on the proposals for the Guardian (here)
Mithran Samuel at Community Care has also covered the story

5 comments:

  1. I'm afraid that the information about local authority obligations is incorrect. Local authorities do have obligations to disabled people even where they have a family member or friend available to provide care. The carer has the right to say if they can continue to provide the necessary support and if they cannot, then the local authority must step in to make up the shortfall.

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    1. Hello, you are quite correct - I was oversimplifying to keep it shorter. A point which I haven't dwelt on here, is that this proposal could also put a great deal more pressure on carers to make up for the shortfall in care provision - as it will be a choice between that and the person they care for either having unmet needs or moving into a care home.

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  2. Councils have always considered options regarding eligibility/care needs and how they are met within financial considerations and change the criteria/method of meeting them.The consultation to me smacks of deriving "support" from the local population(with a distasteful divisive element)and also worrying to the extent it will exert psychological pressure on current and potential service users and their carers.To view people as "unsustainable" offends me greatly.

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  3. I would like to know where all these institutional care home's are going to come from?

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  4. http://www.irwinmitchell.com/newsandmedia/2012/december/Family-Takes-Legal-Action-Against-Worcestershire-County-Council

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