A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those deeply depressing moments that will generally punctuate a career in social care.
I had to go and tell a woman, who cares for her mother with enormous patience and dignity, that we could not increase their personal budget although her mother’s care needs had grown.
I suppose I went to my manager in a relaxed almost casual way and explained how the needs of the older woman had changed and to ensure her well-being, she needed additional time.
I was told, with a degree of equal sadness and regret that there would be no increase. If we were to provide what I felt was a necessary increase in care, the time had to be taken from the the hours already allocated.
She did, to her credit, try to have a discussion about this with her own manager but there was no budging on budgets. Despite the change in various situations, there would be no extra money. In fact, she added, the plan really needed to be cut.
It had been my first personal budget implemented. The council, in an attempt to encourage and prod us to implement these personal budgets had promised us and by extension, the service users and carers we work with, that no-one would be disadvantaged by moving to a personal budget so even if the RAS (resource allocation system – the way that figures are attached to needs through the personal budgets system) did not ‘deliver’ enough money to provide an equivalent package of care that had been delivered under the ‘old’ system – it would not be reduced (and here’s the key) at least, not initially.
Now this particular service user and her daughter had what was a high package of care. It had costed much more than the ‘RAS’ had spat out.
After making the promises, after the move to personal budgets is no longer an optional roll out of volunteers – the cuts are coming. There is no longer the carrot to offer of ‘equivalent packages of care’ because we now offer everyone as a matter of course a personal budget and those who were not receiving them are being transferred over to the new system regardless – they don’t have to be self-managed, of course, but they have to exist.
So I visited the family and we looked at ways of shifting around hours.
The hours that were cut were the respite hours.
I suppose it was inevitable.
Family carers are invisible. The work they do is not costed. Of course the daughter was sacrificing her own needs for a few hours respite to her mother’s needs for additional personal care.
This is what the cuts mean to one family.
I had to tell them and negotiate with them about what to cut from their own package of care.
Not the Prime Minister. Not the Millionaires in the cabinet. Not any elected politician or Council Chief Executive. No councillor had to sit in that room with me and look the service user and carer in the face and ask them what they would prefer to give up from their package of care.
I’ve known this family for many years. I have a good understanding what is at stake for them and how much these cuts are hurting. I also know they won’t complain or grumble or shout from the rooftops.
They are not going to be going on any rallies or demonstrations against the cuts – not least because the respite hours have been cut.
We who can, have to demonstrate and shout and scream on their behalf.
And you know, as I know and I say this with a heavy heart – they’ll be much more of this to come.
- Greater ‘choice’ for social care (bbc.co.uk)
- Paul Burstow writes… Our vision for social care (libdemvoice.org)
- David Cameron accused of second betrayal over care for disabled children (telegraph.co.uk)