Crisis in social care system leaves disabled people without support

By: Richard Kramer, Deputy Chief Executive, Sense
Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 – 10:26 GMT   

For a long time now our social care system has been in crisis. Funding has been cut back to the bare bone and local councils are struggling to find the money to provide even the most basic care.

Chronic underfunding has left many deafblind and disabled people struggling to get the support they need.

Calls to Sense from deafblind people increased by 40 per cent last year, as they struggle to access the care they need at the same time as battling with the impact of the recent benefit changes. We are concerned that these problems will continue to get worse.

When we talk about social care, we aren’t just talking personal care such as help getting washed and dressed. Although this is vital for many people, it isn’t all that social care entails. We are also talking about ensuring that people can exercise, get to medical appointments and have a life outside of the home.

In the case of deafblind people it will often include communication support. Unfortunately, these elements of social care are often being denied to people because of cost.

Katherine, a deafblind woman, recently shared her experiences with us: “Everything I do is with communication support, and life without it isn’t worth living. But because I look ‘normal’ and do my best to cope, social services cut my hours in half.

“British Sign Language is my first language, but because I can’t see the signs anymore I need to feel the interpreter’s hands to understand. Without an interpreter it is completely impossible for me to communicate with anyone at all. My eldest daughter often acts as an interpreter for me, but she is only 12 and I want her to be able to do things other girls her age do.

“Without support I just sit at home, alone and bored all day. But when I do get support it makes me feel alive, like a human being – if I didn’t I would simply go insane, and then cost the government more money”.

This is just one of many examples we hear of people struggling without access to the right support. Provision of this support is vital to ensuring health and wellbeing in the long-term.

As people reach crisis point they can become more susceptible to falls or require hospital treatment because they didn’t get the support they needed from social care. Ultimately, this costs more that providing the correct support in the first place.

Over the past year the Care Bill has been progressing through Parliament and has provided a real opportunity to make sure that social care remains high up the political agenda. Recently, the Bill reached the end of its journey to become an Act.

One of the welcome features of the Act is that it does recognise the link between social care and broader wellbeing. It also recognises that, in the long term, adequate social care is in everyone’s best interests, both ethically and financially.

The Care Act is good news for deafblind people and will hopefully lead to a better provision of social care. I believe that this new piece of legislation will be an important step forward for disabled people.

We need to ensure, however, that central government provides enough funds for local authorities to back it up, and provides the amount of social care that people with disabilities so desperately need to not just get by, but to live full and active lives.

Richard Kramer is deputy chief executive of national deafblind charity Sense. The charity provides specialist information, advice and services to deafblind people, their families, carers and the professionals who work with them.