Disability Rights UK Deputy CEO Sue Bott reflects on the current concerns about social care funding
Penny Pepper writing in the Guardian reflects on how her Christmas experience was transformed by independent living when finally, in 1995 she secured the funds from her local authority to be able to employ her own personal assistant and go Christmas shopping without her mum.
She would stand little chance today. A recent survey of people getting social care support for the Independent Living Strategy Group of which DR UK is a member, found that over 50% of respondents were restricted by their local authority to spending their direct payment on personal care tasks only and 48% reported that choice and control over how their support needs are met was poor or very poor.
Part of the reason for this state of affairs is undoubtedly the crisis in the funding of social care, a fact that is accepted by just about everyone except the Government.
There is a suspicion that perhaps in these times of austerity government has a different agenda, an agenda that says other family members should take responsibility for meeting the support needs of older relatives or family members with disability or long-term health conditions. The consequences of that policy would be more people having to give up work to care, family relationship breakdowns and residential care where there was no family member willing to provide support. A chilling prospect! Penny would be back to having to rely on her mum.
Thankfully, following an outcry from politicians of all political parties about the lack of even a mention of social care in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, the Government has announced that Councils can increase council tax by 6% over two years to fund social care. Whilst this is welcome it is hardly going to solve the crisis. As Vicky McDermott, Chair of the Care and Support Alliance says ‘it’s a drop in the ocean’ especially when you consider that investment in social care has been cut by one-third in the last five years. http://careandsupportalliance.com/category/news/
It is not looking like the opportunities for independent living and having choice and control over your support are going to improve any time soon particularly as I suspect that any slight increase in social care funding will just find its way to services providers rather than in increases for those employing their own personal assistants.
So what do we do? The general public don’t understand the concept of independent living. They don’t understand that we disabled people and people with long-term health conditions just want to get on with our lives and contribute what we can using our skills, knowledge and spending power. We have to tell them and rebuild the demand for independent living. Otherwise we really will be just about managing rather than living fulfilled lives.