Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of over-50s group Saga, commenting on the ruling today, November 9, 2011, in the High Court that Sefton Council’s decision to freeze fees for people needing care in the borough is unlawful.
“I expect many local authorities have been taken aback by this ruling, and quite a few legal and financial teams scrambled to assess what could be a massive impact upon the way councils fund care for older people, and how this ruling could reach far and wide.
“Once again the old and vulnerable are in the news as being on the receiving end of care and support shortfalls - but on this occasion their representatives have bitten back and bitten hard.
“Rather than rising to the challenge of funding the extra care needs of our ageing population, local authorities are continually cutting the care needs they will cover, leaving frail older people to fend for themselves - even freezing funding in the face of significant cost rises. This is an outrage and has rightly been declared illegal.
“In its ruling today that it is unlawful for local authorities to freeze care funding in this way purely to cut its own costs and without regard to the actual cost of providing care, the High Court has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. The flawed funding system of social care in England is being brutally exposed and the impact of local authority cuts and lack of long term funding is leaving increasing numbers of vulnerable older people without adequate care.
“The problem is one that has been highlighted so many times recently and stems from the fundamental fact that social care is the poor relation in our health system - and is not integrated with the NHS. Social care is largely run and funded by local authorities, whose budgets are being squeezed as never before, even while demand for care is rising inexorably year on year.
“But that leaves us with the underlying problem that local authorities do not have enough money to pay for proper care and, while resources are all focussed on the NHS, care is being neglected - and thus those needing care are also neglected.
“When will we wake up to the challenges and threats of such severe care underfunding?
“We need a radical overhaul of the whole system and the Dilnot review sets out a credible framework for action. This must include ringfencing public funding, better integration between NHS and social care, investment in prevention and early intervention, as well as an end to across-the-board care cutbacks by local authorities.
“Inadequate social care can be just as life-threatening as withholding medical care, especially for our increasing numbers of older people, yet somehow public money places all the emphasis on just one part of the picture.”