Autism charities demand change ahead of General Election

North West charity, Autism Together along with other regional autism charities have sent an open letter to the leaders of the main political parties ahead of this month’s general election highlighting the failures by local authorities to ensure a fair and proper needs assessment.

The letter which can be read here lists 4 urgent action areas that require immediate attention. Nicholas Endean, Community Care Solicitor for Moore Blatch takes a look at these points.

  1. Updated Rates and Costs

This is not a surprise and one that we see regularly when advising and representing persons living with disability and their carers. The changes to the law over the living wage and sleeping hours and have impacted on costs up and down the country.

Carers are doing more and more work but finding that the rates the CCG’s and Local Authorities are prepared to pay for care continues to decline. Often unsociable hours, bank holiday rates, respite pay are all swept under the carpet when budgets and rates are set. This is unacceptable and only designed to cut costs as opposed to helping the service user.

  1. Systematic cutting of care packages

We see this across the social care and health care spectrums, from CHC packages, social care direct payments and decisions to stop funding vital local services. In many cases cuts appear arbitrary.  Client’s often come to us in shock and panic after being told by a social worker that their care package will be reduced. There is often little or no consultation, no meeting and certainly no clear justification or robust reassessment of needs either. These decisions can be challenged where irrational or illogical decision making can be demonstrated..

  1. Cohesive Partnerships

When the Care Act 2014 was introduced, one of the main goals of the government was to promote better partnerships between the health and social care sectors. Indeed, Section 3 of the Act clearly states that a local authority must exercise its functions by ensuring the two sectors work together to promote the well-being of adults in its area. (our emphasis)

In our experience there can be a lot of confusion for clients and service users between health and social care. It may still be early days under the new legislation however the duty under the Care Act exists to prevent a “them and us” situation building, especially if a care package is jointly funded.

  1. Recruitment and Pay

Without doubt the main complaint we have from clients is the availability of quality staff. Many do feel empowered by either a Direct Payment or a Personal Health Budget and are eager to manage the funds as they wish and employ the staff they wish.

Retaining staff and being able to pay potential employees the appropriate wage is critical. The needs of a person will vary enormously and the care they receive will inevitably vary as well. It is very difficult to be able to impose a flat pay level when the job and complexity and level of needs can vary so much from person to person.

Flexibility with pay whilst permissible is often at the detriment of the number of care hours that can be provided and can place a burden on other carers, or more likely family members.

Ultimately retaining staff with appropriate pay packages to enable junior members to be trained properly is something we whole-heartedly endorse. Small term increases can make the world of difference and ensure that continuity of care which is some critical to many autistic people.

We are Moore Blatch support these proposals that have been sent to the party leaders. These are not overly-ambitious demands, but practical and perfectly achievable standards that we hope are put at the forefront of the social care agenda following the General Election this week.

If you or a loved one are having difficulties with a direct payment or a CHC package of care, then please contact the community care team at Moore Blatch on 023 8071 8000.