The residents of Hammersmith & Fulham who receive home care services are amongst the most vulnerable of us. They may be disabled or, frequently, elderly and infirm, becoming mentally less capable of coping than they used to be, all too often alone or with a distant and busy family that cannot give much assistance, often worried about money. The duty of the Council to provide excellent care for them is so clear that it does not need to be stated.
With the increasing fragmentation of the family and the pressures of modern life, I fear that the number of residents here and across the country needing home care can only increase. With that in mind, there are three important points:
- We must ensure the quality of this help. The new Care Act will impose statutory obligations and penalties on us if we don’t – and rightly so.
- We must ensure that the most vulnerable, those who need help the most, receive it.
- We must also ensure that there is the funding necessary to pay for it.
Under the present means tested system three quarters of those receiving home care pay nothing for the service. Only those who are judged to have sufficient income to pay for it are charged. I question whether providing this service free to those who do have the income to pay for it, will help achieve the important objectives of the service. There is a concern that offering this as a free service will be diverting funds away from the most vulnerable towards the wealthy.
It may also lead to an increase in demand from those who could pay as the articulate well to do demand services for themselves or their parents, while those most in need are least able to fight for themselves. It must be a concern that offering this service free will stretch the adult social care budget further than its resources.
Concerns have been raise that those on moderate incomes, who need assistance, are being put off asking for it because of the cost of paying for it. There is certainly justification for reviewing the means testing system to ensure that does not happen. With this proviso, we cannot support making home care for those who can afford it, free.