Cuts in adult social care support across West Sussex which have saved millions of pounds could turn some people into ‘lonely hermits’ with increasing health problems, a County Hall meeting was warned.
One county councillor said he was ashamed that in one of the country’s richest counties people were being condemned to ‘lives of quiet desperation’.
Members of the county’s health and adult care select committee called for consideration of issues including: potential social isolation, and how this was being addressed through the voluntary sector; closer integration of NHS and adult social care; and the importance of advocacy.
Views will be passed to cabinet member Peter Catchpole (Con, Holbrook).
Also under consideration are a series of recommendations from the West Sussex Local Involvement Network - LINk - which include a proposal that the county council could improve its social care ‘assessment tools’ to more accurately capture unmet needs.
LINk also calls for services to be commissioned to take account of people’s needs for companionship, social contact and ‘purposeful activity’.
The select committee heard that 3,662 community care reassessments had been completed. People with only moderate needs were no longer eligible for funded social care. But members were told the staff who carried out the assessments were not set any targets.
“The assessments were based on the needs of the people in front of them, and they did a professional job,” said Mr Catchpole.
Amanda Jupp (Con, Billingshurst) said people could easily become lonely and isolated when they lost confidence.
“This could come about with these assessments because they have retreated into their shells,” she said. “I worry that we cannot identify them.
“People can become almost hermits, which has an impact on their health,” she added.
Public health director Judith Wright said people were found through lots of routes, including families or friends and GPs, who could help them find out about referral services.
James Walsh (LDem, Littlehampton East) said they were talking about 2,500 people who two years ago were in receipt of services then deemed necessary - basic care and personal services at home.
“Suddenly, for purely financial reasons, they have had the care taken away,” he said. “Is it any surprise there is a sense of desperation? This is a disgraceful indictment.”
People whose care needs were not being met were going to GP surgeries and A and E, which were much more expensive options and often did not provide the right solutions.
“We are seeing more and more people living lives in quiet desperation within the four walls of their homes,” said Mr Walsh. “I am ashamed that in one of the country’s richest counties we are condemning people to these sorts of lives.”
Pete Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield) said LINk’s report provided some useful anecdotal evidence, but only 74 of 1,000 potential responses were received, implying the rest were ‘relatively satisfied’ he said.
David Sheldon (LDem, Horsham Tanbridge) said: “My main concern is loneliness, with older people living lives where they don’t get the opportunity to interact with other people.”
Mark Dunn (Con, Bourne) said they had not focused on the real issue - an ageing population.
In this country, there was a lack of wealth-creating capacity that was going to result in an ‘unpleasant pinch’ he said, adding: “The difficult, demanding and emotionally taxing work required of elected members and officers has been commendably well.”