Human Rights Watch: Social Care Needs Of  Old Service Users Are Neglected

Human Rights Watch: Social Care Needs Of Old Service Users Are Neglected

By Rob Marsh And Charlotte Webster-

A study by the International Organisation Human Rights Watch has revealed worrying trends of deprivation suffered by
older people in care who  face considerable challenges in accessing the social services  they need to live independent, dignified lives.

Contrary to their rights under the leaving Care Act 2014 and human rights obligation,  glaring failings were reported about negligent determinations by local officials  regarding their eligibility for social support. Such services include in-home assistance such as preparing meals, dressing, and bathing. In some cases, older people told Human Rights Watch they were denied crucial services or had services significantly reduced, causing their health and well being to deteriorate.

As part of their research, Human Rights Watch interviewed 51 representatives of nongovernmental organisations, known in the UK as charities, as well as lawyers, service providers, academics, policy experts, staff from the National Health Service, Clinical Commissioning Group staff responsible for planning local health care. They also interviewed  current and former local government staff. Group interviews arranged by partner organisations in supported housing accommodations and community centers in East London, Bournemouth and Poole were also interviewed.

A spokesperson for International Organisation Human Rights Watch told The Eye Of Media.Com: ” our findings revealed systemic failings in the social care system by those charged with the duty to provide adequate care for those eligible for it. In many respects, it demonstrated that those charged with the duty of fulfilling their mandate have been abdicating their responsibilities without consequence. The British Government needs to act to show responsibility so that the public knows that promises made are not mere rhetoric”.


Given the very important aspect of social care, it is unthinkable that those in dire need of social care provision will be left to their own devices. Especially with the high level of Council Tax paid by members of the public, local authorities are expected to fulfil their remit, and deliver to the required high standard.

Some of the respondents interviewed claimed those assessing them did not  understand their disabilities and social care needs. In a number of cases, prior to an assessment, it was announced that services would be cut, overlooking the needs of individuals.

Under England’s Care Act 2014, any individual who meets financial and needs criteria is entitled to government-supported social support, known as social care. These services aim to promote well being and independence, in addition to health and safety, by “supporting people to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible.”

The comprehensive research included 104 individual in-person and telephone interviews. Human Rights Watch also interviewed 27 older people between the ages of 58 and 94 and 20 family carers in England between September 2017 and November 2018, in 11 local government authorities: Tower Hamlets, Cumbria, Bournemouth, North Yorkshire, Hertfordshire, South Derbyshire, Essex, Barking and Dagenham, Salford, Dorset, and Surrey.  Since,Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own social care systems, they  fall outside the scope of the research.

The report documents short comings in the quality of assessments for individual older people’s social care in England. It also reveals the lack of proper treatment from the national government responsible for implementing adequate provision of their care.

Human Rights Watch said they  were unable to have their requests from the British Association of Social Workers satisfied to interview social workers or assessors for their research. This was despite the fact they work with the Care and Support Alliance with represents more than 80 of British leading charities campaigning for properly funded care.

The large number of complaints filed with the UK’s Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman regarding social care assessments indicated serious concerns with assessments and mechanisms to guarantee their quality. The Ombudsman’s 2018 annual report, released in November 2018, documented a 140 percent increase in social care complaints over the eight-year period since 2010.

The report noted that the number of complaints indicated “problems with whole systems and policies,” rather than “one-off mistakes.” The Ombudsman accepts complaints about local government councils and all adult social care providers, including home care agencies.

Although responsibility for providing social care services in England rests with local authorities, the report says no central government agency monitors assessments for social care services. Local authorities, the report says, make decisions about care without any outside oversight. This leaves deserted individuals on their own to challenge their assessment with the local authority, and handle any litigation or  complaint with the ombudsman’s office.


Those able to bring an appeal and achieve the social care they are entitled to, had to endure heavy delays in receiving services. This led to physical, psychological, and financial hardships for many of them. The decision to reduce support services became effective even before individuals were able to appeal. The report points out that Social Care is funded by a mix of local taxation (like Council Tax) and general central government funding allocated to local authorities.

According to the UK National Audit Office, the body charged with scrutinising public spending for Parliament, the funding local governments receive from the central government to deliver social care and other services has fallen by almost half between 2010-11 and 2017-18. The funding reductions are part of austerity measures by the central government to cut spending and increase taxes following the global 2008 financial crisis.

In a 2017 study by the Care and Support Alliance, which represents over 80 of Britain’s leading charities campaigning for a properly funded care system, social workers and others who conduct needs assessments reported they faced pressure from managers and officials responsible for funding decisions to reduce social care costs.

The UK government has obligations under domestic law in the Care Act 2014 and the Human Rights Act, and under international law to ensure the rights to live independently in the community, to health, and to private and family life. 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, and that services continue during appeals.

Despite working with the Care and Support Alliance, which represents over 80 of Britain’s leading charities campaigning for a properly funded care system, requests to the British Association of Social Workers, and other extensive outreach, Human Rights Watch was not able to interview social workers or assessors for their report.


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