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Social Care (Eligibility Criteria)

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2011

7. What estimate he has made of the number of local authorities which changed their eligibility criteria for social care in the last 12 months. (52554)

Decisions about eligibility criteria are a matter for local councils. As part of last year’s spending review, the Government committed an additional £530 million through the local government formula grant, and £648 million in direct support from the NHS, to support social care, as well as £150 million for re-ablement. By 2014, that will rise to £2 billion of additional support for social care.

Is the Minister aware that according to a recent survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, 19 local authorities including my own, Calderdale, have had to raise the eligibility criteria for social care because of the cuts that they have received from the Government? Does he stand by his statement of 21 October that there is

“no justification for local authorities to slash and burn or for local authorities to tighten eligibility”?

I certainly stand by the idea that the Government provided adequate resources in the financial settlement last year, alongside efficiency savings, to ensure that every local authority could choose to maintain the current levels of eligibility and services in its area if it so wished.

Will the Minister examine situations in which domiciliary care contracts are awarded under the EU public procurement directives, to ensure that especially when they are awarded on price, they are not dumbed down and the level of service reduced?

My hon. Friend makes an important point about ensuring that competition is always based on quality, not just price. If she would like to write to me with more details about the matter, I would certainly be happy to follow it up with her.

Since the Government are no longer doing an assessment of the provision of social care by local authorities, I have done it for the Minister. My survey has found that not only have eligibility criteria been tightened, but 88% of councils are increasing their charges, 63% are closing care homes and day centres and 54% are cutting funding to the voluntary sector. Now that I have told the Minister the facts, will he take back his comment that

“no councils need to reduce access to social care”?

Would he like to start being straight with the public?

I will take Labour facts with a pinch of salt. Under Labour, social care was always very much the poor relation. Under this coalition, social care has received a £2 billion spending boost and an unprecedented transfer of resources from the NHS—something that the hon. Lady’s party, if it had been in power, would not have been able to do, because it would have been busy cutting the NHS.