Human Rights Watch: Older people in England left without support

Human Rights Watch: Older people in England left without support

10 January 2019

Older people in England, including those with dementia, are at risk of not getting enough help to live independent, dignified lives because of inequalities with assessments for social services, according to a Human Rights Watch report released today.

The new report, Unmet Needs: Improper Social Care Assessments for Older People in Englandsays the Government must ensure local authorities are carrying out fair, accurate and consistent assessments in order to deliver appropriate services and uphold older people’s rights to live well in the community.

“Older people do not always get fair assessments of the support they need to live dignified, independent lives. Older people’s health and wellbeing can be harmed if they do not get the services they are entitled to.” Bethany Brown, report co-author, Human Rights Watch

GADAA member Human Rights Watch spoke with older people and their relatives in twelve cities and towns across England. Some said that assessors appeared not to understand their disabilities and support needs. In other cases, before beginning an assessment, assessors announced that services would be cut regardless of an individual’s actual need. In some cases, services were denied or cut significantly, affecting older people’s health and well being.

This report shows how utterly unfair the social care assessment process can be if you have dementia, and how often people living with dementia have their rights breached when they subsequently don’t get the social care they need.  Many of the ‘Dementia Statements’, which we developed with people affected by the disease to articulate their human rights, are being trampled on through poor training and cost-cutting – including the fundamental right to family life, to be included in communities, and to receive appropriate, compassionate and properly funded care wherever they live. It’s a false economy – people with dementia ending up in costly hospital or care home admissions when they could have stayed at home for longer if they’d had the right support in place.” Sally Copley, Director of Policy Campaigns and Partnerships, Alzheimer’s Society

Under the Care Act of 2014, anyone who meets financial and needs criteria is entitled to government-supported services known as social care. Services can include in-home assistance such as for preparing meals, dressing, and bathing.

The UK’s Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s 2018 annual report on complaints found a 140 percent increase in social care complaints since 2010. This increase indicates serious concerns with assessments and oversight, Human Rights Watch said. Day-to-day responsibility for providing social care services in England rests primarily with local authorities. Although social care assessments often have significant impact on older people’s health, well being, and independence, no central government agency monitors the assessments. Oversight is left to the local authorities delivering the services.

While some people interviewed were able to successfully bring an appeal, their services were reduced before an appeal was decided. Some older people faced physical, psychological, and financial hardships as a result. Mary, 76, lives in a small town near London, and has care needs. Although she has difficulty gripping and has used a walker for many years, in 2016, an assessor cut her services and falsely reported that she had carried a heavy tray across her kitchen during the assessor’s visit. Although Mary successfully challenged the inaccurate assessment, the appeals took a year and led to the loss of her caregiver of many years. “After the start of this review, [she] was so uncertain as to whether she would have a job at the end of the review that she gave her notice,” Mary said.

Read the report: Unmet Needs: Improper Social Care Assessments for Older People in England

Further Human Rights Watch reporting on older persons

Alzheimer’s Society website