Freedom of Information requests reveal disabled people and carers actually worse off since the launch of the Care Act.
One year on from its launch, the long-awaited Care Act, billed as the most significant reform of social care law in over 60 years and promising to safeguard the well-being of disabled people and carers, has failed in its first year, a charity study has found.
The new research from national disabled people’s charity Revitalise found that over half (55%) of England’s local authorities had spent less overall on services for disabled people and carers since the Care Act came into being than in the year before – to the tune of an incredible £397 million – and 42% had reduced their spending on respite provision by an average of nearly £900,000 each.
A central pillar of the Care Act was the legal entitlement of all disabled people and carers to an assessment of their support needs. However, the Revitalise study, based on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, found that local authorities gave fewer Needs Assessments for disabled people during the first year of the Care Act than in the year before it, and half (48%) had carried out an average of 22% fewer Carer Assessments during the same period.
A parallel survey of disabled people and carers mirrored the FOI findings. Over half (53%) of the disabled people and carers surveyed by Revitalise said the funding they received had been reduced or not kept pace with inflation over the past year. As a consequence, two thirds (66%) said they felt more isolated and had been forced to reduce their time spent taking valuable respite, and 44% said they were now struggling to make ends meet.
Despite prominent support from central government, the failure of the Care Act was amply demonstrated by Revitalise’s research. 7 out of 10 (69%) disabled people and carers told the charity they were unaware of any changes to their entitlements as a result of the Care Act and half (49%) said the services they received had got worse since the Act’s introduction.
The Care Act, part of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s “Revolution in the heath and social care sector”, came into force on 1 April 2015 and was one year old in April 2016. Revitalise’s study, based on FOI requests and its own research, looked at the impact of the first year of the Care Act compared with the preceding year.
In light of the study’s findings, Revitalise is calling for an overhaul of the Care Act to ensure that all the disabled people and carers within local authority jurisdictions are approached and offered Carer or Needs Assessments, and more funding from central government to enable local authorities to fulfil all the pledges contained within the Act. The charity is also reiterating its call for sufficient funding for respite breaks to be a fundamental element of all social care provision.
Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds commented:
“For the first time in 60 years a piece of legislation has come along which purports to enshrine and protect the rights, dignity and independence of disabled people and carers, but it has become abundantly clear from our own research that the Care Act has failed to make any meaningful impact on the quality of life of the people it sets out to support – and in many respects their situation appears to have got worse. This is a tragedy.
“It is already well known that there is a massive and growing shortfall in adult social care budgets, which is expected to be around £4.3 billon by 2020, so it is hardly surprising that local authorities are struggling to implement the Care Act properly. In fact, local authorities raised concerns about implementing the Care Act long before it came into force.
“As a respite provider, the importance of regular time off – for carer and cared for alike – is well known to us, so it is very disheartening to find out that adequate funding for respite is one of the services that has diminished under the Care Act.”
“Despite its very laudable intentions, our fear is that until local authorities get squarely behind the principles of the Care Act – and the equally important issue of the shortfall in adult social care funding is addressed – disabled people and carers will continue to struggle to achieve even the most basic quality of life.”