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Help us create a factsheet on social care and welfare “reforms”

The aim of this post is to draw a basic outline of some the ways that people obtain care services and allowances, and some of the problems that they're dealing with as this government's reforms and cuts take effect.

We've included videos where people talk about the impacts that these changes are having on their lives.

We want to outline some the problems faced by people who need care as cash-strapped councils ration and increase charges for care, and as the Disability Living Allowance is replaced by the personal independence payment from next year with a 20% cut to the overall budget (see page 36 of the Treasury's budget costings document). At the end of the post, there's a very brief summary of new Employment Support Allowance eligibility criteria and some of the problems that people are facing as they go through Atos work capability assessments.

We want to create short factsheets that people can use for at-a-glance information, particularly if they're new to these topics.

Your help and input is very welcome - so let us know in the comments if there are any points you think should be added, clarified, changed, etc. There are links to other sheets and information sites at the end of each section - feel free to add others in the comments.

1) How care entitlements and eligibility are assessed

Fair Access To Care Services (FACS) assessment bands

People who want care services from their local council (that means help with a range of daily activities, from dressing, to bathing, to shopping and going out) have their needs evaluated by the council's social care team.

When that evaluation is done, people are placed in one of four categories. These are the four Fair Access to Care Bands:

Critical:

People are placed in this band if they face a threat to life, or a loss to their independence if they don't have care services and their needs met.

Substantial:

People are placed in this band if they will be unable to carry out the majority of their personal care or domestic routines without care services.

Moderate:

People are placed in this band if there is some risk to their health or wellbeing, or if they might lose their independence, without care services.

Low:

This band is for people who find one or two aspects of their daily life hard to manage without help.

These descriptions have been edited for this page (and also appear in various edited forms on council sites). You can read the criteria in full here from page 21

Problems people are dealing with as budgets and services are cut

Many councils have stopped funding care for people in the “low” and “moderate” groups. Some have also tried to restrict funding to people in the “critical” band only (which has led to court challenges). The Independent recently ran a story on False Economy FOI data on the numbers of people affected by these band changes in the past two years.

Confusion and concern

In the video below, Margaret Cropper, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, explains that she wasn't even sure which FACS category she was in when her council (Lancashire) announced last year that it planned to stop funding the “moderate” category.

Member-led organisation Disability Equality Northwest has reported a lot of members in a similar situation. People aren't always sure what category they're in, or what their entitlements are.

 

Other issues people face include increased charges for care. Councils across the country have been increasing charges for a range of services, including homecare, meals on wheels and transport.

Totals are still creeping up. A recent FOI investigation into care charges at the end of last year show showed that the average charge for an hour of home care increased by ten percent between 2009/10 and 2012/13 from £12.29 to £13.61.

There is more information here at Disability Rights.

The Department of Health's Fairer Charging Policies for Home Care and other non-residential social services document is here.

Other issues people face include closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). The fund was originally set up to help people with severe disabilities stay in their own homes and live independently. The fund was closed to new applicants in 2010 and the government is now consulting on plans to shut the fund and to "devolve" funding to local authorities in England and to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. ILF users have raised many issues, including concern that councils won't be in a position to prioritise this funding and care in an era of vicious cuts to social care.

2) Changes to Disability Living Allowance

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit paid to children and adults with disabilities to help with extra costs they may have as a result of their disabilities. DLA is paid at different rates to different people, depending on their circumstances.

There are two parts to DLA - a care component and a mobility component. The care component is paid to people who need care help and the mobility component to help people get around. Some people use their mobility component to pay for adapted cars, which they use to get to work and general travel needs. Some people receive both the care and mobility components of DLA, while others get just one component.

In this video, Maureen, who has severe arthritis, explains how she uses the mobility component of her DLA to pay for the adapted car she uses to get to her bookkeeping job (from 1:06):


 

Problems and issues people are dealing with

From next year, DLA will be phased out by government and a new payment – called the personal independent payment - will be brought in. The government aims to cut the DLA bill by 20% as it makes these changes. People on lifetime awards – that's people who, until now, have not had to continually reapply for DLA, because their disabilities are severe and not expected to improve – will also be reassessed (see page 5 of this DWP FAQ sheet for more).

In the video below, Alison, who has a severe-to-profound hearing impairment and has just been made redundant from her council job, talks about her concerns as she applies for DLA. She was awarded a lifetime award just after this video was taken, but her entitlement will still be reassessed as DLA is phased out.




 

3) Employment and support allowance

Employment and support allowance is a benefit for people who are unable to work because they have an illness or disability and/or who need support in work. People are assessed for this allowance in a process that is extremely controversial (these assessments are run by a company called Atos). Assessments for ESA include a medical assessment which is widely described as unfair, extremely stressful and inaccurate (in June, the BMA called for an end to it).

ESA applicants are placed in one of two groups – the support group (not expected to find work), or the work-related activity group (expected to find work).

Problems and issues people are facing

Many people have been found fit for work and told to apply for Jobseeker's allowance and seek work.* Others have been put in the work-related activity group, when they feel that they should be placed in the support group. This has caused enormous controversy and many of Atos' original assessment decisions have been overturned on appeal.

This year, the government also placed new restrictions on the amount of time people can receive ESA. People on contributions-based ESA are now only eligible for that benefit for one year.

More links

Trying to record Atos work capability assessments

More on recording work capability assessments - is Atos right or the DWP?

Disabled people against cuts: fighting WCAs

*sentenced updated to include reference to Jobseekers' allowance.

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