Social workers have warned that disabled and older people are not having their eligible needs to access the community or maintain relationships fully met, as council cuts leave them isolated.

A “Community Care” survey, the findings of which were broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” programme on 29 May, has revealed that 62% of the 282 responding practitioners said they had seen cuts to care packages that had increased people’s social isolation over the past two years.

Half of this group said the cuts had been driven by financial pressures rather than changes in need or commissioning practice. Of those who had service users on their caseloads who had assessed eligible needs for support to access community facilities or to develop and maintain family or other relationships, most said these needs were not being fully met.

Amongst the social workers interviewed there was an understanding of an implicit hierarchy of need in their local authorities that relegated the social needs below those for personal care.

There was a description of how a person with Down’s syndrome was moved from a residential care home “where they were happy, had good relationships and went out into the community” to a supported living placement with only three hours’ of care a day, where they “now sit in their flat alone”. The social worker admitted: “We were told to move the person to cut costs and not to worry”, which made them feel uncomfortable as a professional.

“Community Care” said that, under section 18 of the “Care Act 2014”, local authorities have a duty to meet all needs for care and support that meet the eligibility criteria, where these are not being met by a carer, where the adult is ordinarily resident in their area or is present but of no settled residence, and is not excluded on the grounds of their financial resources.

The statutory guidance to the Act also states that when considering the type of care needs an adult may have, local authorities should note that there is “no hierarchy of needs”.

However, the social workers responding to the survey said councils were failing to consistently meet people’s eligible need for support to develop and maintain family and other personal relationships.

Of those with service users on their caseloads with this need, 18% said it was not being met at all by existing care packages; 64% said the need was being “partially” met; and just 18% said the need for relationships was being “fully met” for service users on their caseload.

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) President Julie Ogley responded to the findings, saying some of them were in line with the Association’s own budget survey and autumn short survey of directors of adult social services on these issues. She said: “This includes 71% of directors either had no confidence or partial confidence that their social care budget will be enough to meet statutory duties relating to personal budgets or services to meet eligible needs.”

The full findings of the survey are available at www.communitycare.co.uk.

The ADASS “Budget Survey” is available at www.adass.org.uk.

Last reviewed 4 June 2019