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Concern over funding for care of elderly and disabled
5:51pm Monday 18th March 2013 in News
Bradford Council’s plans to deny means-tested care to many elderly and disabled people came under fire today from MPs and peers.
The alarm is raised over the likelihood that all local authorities will be allowed to fund only “substantial” care needs – shutting out those with “moderate” needs.
Such a shake-up would deny help for everyday tasks such as getting up, bathing, making meals, housework and shopping, critics say.
Labour-run Bradford Council is consulting on such a switch, to bring it into line with more than 80 per cent of cash-strapped councils in England.
The change would save £1.57m a year, but would see 2,000 people losing out, including 1,290 pensioners and 788 disabled people aged 18 to 64.
Now a new “national minimum eligibility threshold”, to be introduced in 2015, is expected to set the bar at "substantial” for every council.
But an investigation, by the Draft Care and Support Bill committee, was told that 69,000 working-age disabled adults had already “fallen out of the care system”.
And it was warned a further 36,000 would follow, if that decision was taken – making their health worse, at higher long-term cost to the taxpayer.
Mr Burstow, the committee’s the Liberal Democrat chairman, said: “Many, many people are excluded from the system by the move to funding substantial and critical care only.
“We heard evidence that this runs counter to the Government’s objective of prevention and that a setting of funding “moderate” care is the desirable goal.”
Of other local authorities, Calderdale still funds “moderate” care needs, Leeds has moved to “substantial” – while Kirklees requires people to be in “critical” need.
Ministers are also urged to think again over:
* Opening the door for town halls to impose charges for equipment - and on carers. Both are currently free.
* The threat of a “deluge of disputes and legal challenges”, when cash-starved councils make more decisions about eligibility for help.
Mr Burstow said there were fears of charges for “equipment, aids and minor adaptations”, adding: “The minister said that was not the intention, but the government needs to be clear from the start.”
And, calling for an independent tribunal system, he added: “The process is shrouded in secrecy – and there are 152 different systems at the moment.”
A £1bn package, unveiled last month, promised to impose a £75,000 lifetime cap on care home fees – to try to avoid homeowners having to sell up, to pay their bills.
And the means-tested assets threshold - below which state help is available – will be hiked to £123,000, to help owners of less expensive homes.
On Sunday, Chancellor George Osborne announced the change would be fast-tracked by one year, to 2016, and a slightly lower £72,000 cap introduced.