Older people in England are at risk of not getting adequate support to live independent, dignified lives due to uneven assessments for social services, Human Rights Watch said in a report released this week.
In doing so, the UK government risks failing to secure older persons’ rights to health, and to live in the community.
For the 35-page report, ‘Unmet Needs: Improper Social Care Assessments for Older People in England’, Human Rights Watch interviewed older people and their relatives in 12 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. And in some cases services were denied or cut significantly, affecting older people’s health and wellbeing.
“Older people don’t always get fair assessments of the support they need to live dignified, independent lives,” said Bethany Brown, researcher on older people’s rights at Human Rights Watch. “Older people’s health and wellbeing can be harmed if they don’t get the services they’re entitled to.”
The UK’s Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s 2018 annual report on complaints found a 140% 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, wellbeing, 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.
The UK government has obligations under domestic and international law to ensure the rights of older people to live independently in the community, to health, and to private and family life, Human Rights Watch said.
The UK government should ensure that older people receive the support they need and are entitled to by regularly monitoring social care assessments to ensure accuracy and fairness, the organisation continued, adding that authorities should also ensure that people continue to receive services during complaints and appeals processes.
“Many older people in England desperately need these services and have no alternatives, so serious cuts to social services funding and an improper assessment can cause tangible risks to their health and wellbeing,” Brown said. “Oversight is a crucial part of a properly functioning system, and the UK government should make sure that local authorities consistently conduct fair and accurate assessments and deliver appropriate services.”