People ‘lonely’ after care cuts

Susie Rowbottom (right) whose social care has been cut to 2 hours a week, with mum Horsham District Councillor Kate Rowbottom  S12150680a -photo by Steve Cobb
Susie Rowbottom (right) whose social care has been cut to 2 hours a week, with mum Horsham District Councillor Kate Rowbottom S12150680a -photo by Steve Cobb

A survey of people receiving care from West Sussex County Council has found that while their most basic personal needs are being met, a significant number are feeling lonely.

The survey was carried out by the West Sussex Local Involvement Network (LINk) - the consumer voice for health and social care – which met with 74 social care users and their families and carers across the county between February and July this year.

The purpose of the report was to assess how people’s lives had been affected by the changes to the way social care is now being funded. The findings have revealed a number of concerns for the LINk including the fact that people’s social care needs are being assessed independently of their health needs.

It also found that 76 per cent of people who responded to WSCC’s consultation about the proposed changes in 2010/2011 said they disagreed with the proposals.

Since April 2011 WSCC has only funded social care for those with substantial and critical needs – a change which meant everyone who was receiving care had to be reassessed against new eligibility criteria. This process was described to the LINk as being ‘not very friendly, very abrupt and business-like’.

Between March 2011 and March 2012, 3,600 people had been reassessed and the LINk said a significant number of interviewees complained of not being involved in enough ‘purposeful activity’.

People also said they were not given support after the decision was made to remove their care. One service user said: “I was told I would be completely self-funding in the future. They suggested two or three agencies but that was it – I felt left. It was all very abrupt and very hard.”

Another said: “The way it was done was disgusting – a shambles. I was informed a few weeks before Christmas that I would be losing all my care.”

The LINk is also concerned for people whose support needs are moderate but might peak into being substantial or critical. Prevention and Wellbeing services - paid for by WSCC and available without a complex assessment - must reach these particularly vulnerable people.

West Sussex LINk manager David Liley said: “The LINk research suggests that there are lessons for WSCC to learn about how to improve people’s experience of having their social care needs assessed, and about reducing loneliness and boredom for a significant number of people.

“We also hope that WSCC will be able to work with partners in the NHS on an improved and more integrated method of assessing people’s health and social care needs.”

This substantial and detailed LINk report which includes a number of recommendations has been submitted to the WSCC Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee, which is meeting on October 3 to examine the eligibility changes to adult social care.

The full report can be found on the West Sussex LINk’s website: http://www.makesachange.org.uk