Human rights expert despairs at 'polarisation' of social care industry

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Human rights expert despairs at 'polarisation' of social care industry

8th June 2012

A human rights expert has lambasted the findings of a recent survey which revealed that government cuts in funding were leading to a two-tier social care system.

Mark McGhee, an expert in human rights legislation at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the findings were yet more evidence that the current social care system is in crisis and buckling under the long-term triple pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs.

“It is totally unacceptable that councils are being forced to pass on these cuts to care providers at the detriment of the elderly,” said Mark, a partner with the firm. “At a time when demand from our ageing population is increasing, it is absolutely critical that care providers have the resources they need to effectively meet demand and provide the most vulnerable in society with the care they deserve.”

The poll of care providers - who account for 35,000 beds across the country - revealed that a 0.1 per cent cut in funding over the last two years has led to 60 per cent of those polled admitting to having to reduce the number of beds they had available for council-funded residents.

Shockingly, nine out ten care providers state that pressure from low council fees will ‘polarise’ the industry leading to more care homes opening in wealthier parts of the country to serve only those who can afford to pay for their own care themselves.

“Councils across the country have had their adult social services budgets slashed by almost a billion pounds this year,” said Mark. “A two-tier social care system where the wealthy are able to buy residential care home places while they are still in relatively good health while the poorest have to wait until the end of their lives - as the availability and provision of council-funded beds is limited only to the most needy - is both incredibly offensive and utterly wrong.

Almost every care provider polled said that there was a growing gap between the money available for social care and the public expectations of the quality of care provided. One provider said the amounts of public money available ‘bore no resemblance to what it costs to provide care at even a basic level, let alone care that meets people’s expectations.’

“It really is deplorable that the basic rights of the elderly are being decided on whether or not they can afford the care that they need,” said Mark. “I am appalled that publicly funded provision is being squeezed to such an extent that poorer pensioners are having to meet certain criteria before they’re deemed sufficiently ill enough to warrant a few months of cursory council-funded care before they die, while those wealthy enough to buy high levels of care are able to do so when they are both physically fitter and younger than those who cant.

“There clearly isn’t enough money in the system and this needs to change,” added Mark. “The government needs to stop procrastinating and introduce a new system for funding social care so that councils can allocate care providers with the sufficient funds they need to ensure the elderly and vulnerable, who cannot afford to look after themselves, are given the care they desperately need.”

Read more: Guardian