MORE than 45,000 elderly and disabled people across the region have “lost” council-funded care in just three years, campaigners are warning.
The huge decline – of almost one fifth across the North-East and Yorkshire – is the result of “chronic underfunding” of town halls, the Care and Support Alliance said.
Cash-starved authorities are being forced to “ration” care - even to people who need help to “to get up, get washed, and get dressed and get out of the house”
Now the Alliance is warning the Government’s flagship plans to reform the battered care system will fail unless councils are given “long term, sustainable funding”.
Richard Hawkes, its chairman, said: “Like most other parts of the country, the North-East and Yorkshire are experiencing a squeeze on social care.
“Chronic underfunding has left large numbers of older and disabled people, who need support to do the basics, like getting up or out of the house, cut out of the care system.”
Mr Hawkes said the Care Bill – including proposals to cap costs and end a ‘postcode lottery’ in care – had the potential to help a system which was “on its knees”.
But he warned: “A huge number of older and disabled people will not see any of the benefits, because of Government plans to tightly restrict who gets care. This will place huge pressure on family carers.
“To solve this crisis the Government needs to commit to properly funding the social care system - and make sure those that need care get it.”
The Alliance compared the number of people receiving council-funded care in 2009-10 – the year before the general election – and the last financial year, 2012-13.
It found the total fell by 18 per cent in the North-East (from around 121,300 to 99,395) and by 20 per cent in Yorkshire (from around 117,500 to 93,825).
The declines are likely to have been even sharper in percentage terms, because of the rising proportion of the population that is elderly.
The Alliance traced the falls to the fast-shrinking number of councils funding “moderate” care needs – instead of just “substantial” and “critical”.
Durham, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland help only those whose needs are “substantial”, or greater – with North Yorkshire set to follow suit.
That denies home help to people for everyday tasks such as getting up, bathing, making meals, housework and shopping.
But, although ministers will end the ‘postcode lottery, there has been fierce criticism of setting the new nationwide standard at “substantial”.
Many authorities also say they have been forced to significantly hike charges for the care services for which people are required to pay.
Nick Whitton, Durham County Council’s head of commissioning for children and adult services, said the numbers receiving social care in the county had also fallen - but declined to give any figures.
He added: "While the council has had to make considerable cuts to its expenditure, and needs to make more savings for the future, we are continuing to meet the critical and substantial social care needs for individuals in County Durham, in line with our statutory duty.”
Across England, councils have slashed their social care budgets by £2.6bn in the last three years – with more cuts to come from 2015.