Somerset care changes will hit 'society's most vulnerable'

PUBLISHED: 10:30 25 January 2011

Under the proposals, the council would not pay for those deemed to be in need of moderate care

Under the proposals, the council would not pay for those deemed to be in need of moderate care

Copyright Archant Ltd

PLANS by Somerset County Council to cut care funding to some adults have been described as withdrawing help to society's most vulnerable people.

In order to balance the books in a year of unprecedented cuts, the council is looking at restricting the eligibility thresholds for care that they will pay for, which could save an estimated £500,000.

But Brent Knoll resident Alan Mayo, who cares for his daughter Samantha, thinks that the move will target the county’s unpaid carers who often struggle to support and care for family members with disabilities.

Somerset Older Citizen’s Alliance (SOCA) has also voiced opposition to the proposals, with its chairman saying they would represent a ‘false economy’.

The Government sets four eligibility thresholds for adult care, with the county currently paying for care for those deemed to have moderate, substantial and critical needs.

But the council’s cabinet is due to make a decision about the proposed change on Wednesday, following an ongoing consultation period.

Mr Mayo, of Brent Street, said: “Older people, adults with learning or physical disabilities and mental health needs, and people with hearing and visual impairments will all be affected.

“How can any councillor support this proposal to withdraw care to any of this group of vulnerable people?

“Although people in the moderate threshold might not need as much care as those in the two thresholds above, the small amount of care they do receive from the council is a massive help to them. This in turn keeps them from falling into the higher levels of care.”

SOCA chairman Phil Sealey said: “This would be a false economy in the long run. It is widely recognised that early provision of social care, in all its forms, can prevent more serious care needs developing, and thus save money for both local authorities and the NHS.

“Because this is a predominantly rural county, there are problems of isolation and access to day services for elderly and disabled people.”

A spokesman for the council said: “We do not know exactly how many people would be affected if the threshold is changed, however, we believe it would be only a limited number of those who currently get support from the Council.

“Just because someone has received this letter does not mean they, or the person they care for, would necessarily have services reduced or stopped if there is a change in the eligibility threshold.

“If the decision is made to change the threshold, no one’s services would change until a reassessment of their needs has been carried out. Reassessments would start from April and it could take many months to get these to be completed.”

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