Nearly one in four disabled and older people have experienced cuts to services and increased charges for care, even before local authority spending cuts are implemented, say charities.Many families are already being "pushed to breaking point" by reductions to the amount of care they receive, including transport help and respite care, with more than half saying increased charges mean they can no longer afford food and heating.
"We are extremely concerned that services which were already failing to keep pace with changing demographics are being cut back further. These cuts are having an impact on families before the major cuts to local authority funding bite from April 2011," said a joint statement by 40 leading care charities.
In a survey conducted by the charities, more than a fifth of respondents said services had been cut back even though their needs had stayed the same. More than half of respondents said they had seen their health suffer as a result of the changes to services, while 52% said they were struggling to maintain their independence.
The findings, published by the 40 charities, were based on responses from more than 1,000 disabled and older people and their carers. It comes as councils in England prepare to embark on cuts of 26% over the next four years. By 2014-15 there could be a £1.2bn funding gap in adult social care, according to the King's Fund health thinktank.
The charities said vulnerable people's care needs were increasingly unmet. More people were not receiving enough care, or had been declared ineligible for state-funded care because their disability or long-term health condition was not considered to be "critical".
Significant numbers of families were going without the care and support services they needed and this would be exacerbated by bigger cuts to come, the charities said. "Too often people are falling between the gaps in the health and social care systems, leaving disabled and older people without support, and heaping more pressure on families. There is no doubt that this mix of chronic underfunding and sustained cuts could have serious economic and social consequences unless these challenges are met now."
The survey was carried out to underpin the charities' evidence to the government's Commission on the Future Funding of Social Care, which is expected to report in July.The Care and Support Alliance includes household names such as Carers UK, Alzheimer's Society, Macmillan Cancer Support, Mencap, the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, Rethink and Scope.
The Department of Health said the government had allocated an additional £2bn a year by 2014/15 to support the delivery of social care and protect the most vulnerable in society. "This funding should enable local authorities to protect people's access to services and deliver new approaches to improve their care."
Patrick Butler, The Guardian