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Cap On Care Budgets 'Unlawful'


In  a breakthrough case, four people have succeeded in challenging Birmingham City Council's decision to limit funding to those with 'critical' needs. According to current guidance, Local Authorities assess people's needs as being 'low', 'moderate', 'substanitial' or 'critical'. Until recently, most Local Authorities funded care for people assessed as having 'critical' or 'substantial' needs. However in the wake of the national financial crisis, some have tried to restrict funding to those assessed as having 'critical' needs. Birmingham's decision would have affected around 4,000 people and saved the Council about £120M - around a third of their total savings targets.


Interestingly, the challenge arose from the Disability Discrimination Act; because the Council failed to consider the disproporionate impact of the changes on disabled people they were found to be 'unlawful'. The more fundamental question - whether it is legal to restrict care to people in 'critical' need - remains untested in the Courts.

'Crackdown' On Disability Benefits Begins


Today the government began it's attempts to get 'scroungers' off it's books by speeding up the reassessment of people claiming Incapacity Benefit. While Work and Pensions minister Chris Grayling claims it's '...all about helping those who can return to work' and that there were 'absolutely no targets attached to this programme', many will see this as disingenuous coming from a party that has already publicly stated that 400,000 people are incorrectly claiming the benefit. [Click here to read more]

Why The 'Big Society' Won't Volunteer


Prime Minister David Cameron's vision for a 'Big Society' suffered another setback today when a study by the Hansard Society revealed less people wanted to volunteer than at this time last year. According to the BBC, the people most likely to volunteer were '...parents aged under 45 and from a high-income group'. I say hooray for them, but the middle classes cannot make a Big Society on their own, no matter how hard they try. [Click here to read more]

Doctors Grow Backbone


After decades of adopting a non-confrontational approach to governments of whatever political persuasion, the doctors' union has finally got off the fence. It seems the BMA is concerned with plans to hand over large chunks of the NHS to 'any willing provider' (likely to mean large private health companies in many cases). Their concern, they say, is not ideological - it's merely that the proposed reforms are untested. It seems their views are shared by a large and growing group of Lib Dem MPs, many of whom voted against the Health and Social Care Bill last night. Other Unions are also taking a strong stance against the bill, and many are sending contingents to the big march against NHS cuts next Saturday

New Wellbeing Service Starts in Oxfordshire


The new mental health services commissioned jointly by Oxfordshire PCT and the County Council 'go live' this week. Details are contained in a leaflet produced by the PCT that can be downloaded by clicking here, and are available in more detail on the web sites of the providers, Restore and Oxfordshire Mind. Whilst we are of course happy for our friends and colleagues in those two organisations, this must be balanced with sadness for the loss of the services that will no longer be viable and will have to close. In particular I'm thinking of the Gemini project, which has been so much a part of people's lives in East Oxford for so many years. You will be missed.

NHS Care Failing Older People


The BBC News site led today with a story about the NHS failing ' treat the elderly with care and respect.' What makes this story particularly disturbing is its origin. It doesn't come from a charity representing older people, or from a political group opposed to the cuts. It comes from the Health Ombudsman, the government regulator, the highest authority you can appeal to through the NHS complaints system. As such, it describes real failings. The government's response is that changes resulting from the Health and Social Care Bill will makes the NHS 'more responsive'. Leaving aside the obvious question about the relationship between 'responsiveness' and massive cuts to the NHS budget, the Bill's proposals for public involvement also look like ... [click here to read more].

Thriving Youth Centre at Eynsham


Search Eynsham Youth Centre on the Oxfordshire County Council website, and you'll find the following quote from a satisfied customer:
"We are very happy that we don't have to worry any more about it shutting down and that we still have somewhere to stay out of trouble and have fun and chill out."
Search Eynsham Youth Centre on the Oxford Mail website, and you'll find the following from Council Leader Keith Mitchell:
"Youngsters are perfectly capable of being responsible young adults who do not indulge in antisocial behaviour with or without youth centres."
Leaving aside the contradiction between the views of Mr Mitchell and those on the Council's website, does Mr Mitchell have a point? Well ... [click here to read more].

CQC Criticies Stroke Care


The government social care watchdog has criticised the quality of stroke care in many parts of the country, according to BBC News. The Care Quality Commission has found that people face increasing delays after discharge from hospital, and have particular difficulties in accessing speach therapy and physiotherapy. All this has undermined improvements in NHS services, which have generally improved over the past couple of years. In Oxfordshire the PCT are currently consulting about services here. There's an event on 17th February or you can respond by post, phone or e-mail - see here for details.

Future of FACS In Question


An article in social workers' trade mangazine Community Care has questioned whether the Fairer Access to Care Services (FACS) is still working. Recent decisions by some local authorities to limit funding to people with 'critical' needs, and to divide 'substantial' needs into two categories, have discredited the system in the eyes of some commentators. FACS is theoretically a national system for determining eligability, but local authorities are now interpreting it in very different ways, leading to a 'postcode lottery' for service users and disabled people. In Wales there are already plans for a national eligability threshold, and some people in England are now talking about the same thing.

Registration Certificate Received


Early in July, Keith and Jon excitedly opened the envelope containing their brank new certificate of registration as a Community Interest Company. That's it then - it's official!

Social Enterprises: Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?


I was disturbed to hear the new government crowing about the number of NHS employees planning to bail out and work independently in it's response to the consultation on the recent health White Paper. By next year, we expect 25,000 staff – delivering some £900 million of NHS community services – to be doing so as members of social enterprises.’ It’s noteworthy that this is a part of a bigger plan to allow ‘any willing provider’ to deliver larger and larger proportions of NHS services. Apparently this isn’t privatisation, because the services will be delivered as a part of the NHS ‘brand’. Some of us, though, think of the NHS as rather more than just a brand. Click here to read more.

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