Thursday, 3 July 2008

New equality laws to leave services with massive bill

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Social care and mental health face a costly shake-up after the government last week announced it would outlaw age discrimination in goods and services provision. In a paper outlining plans for the forthcoming Equality Bill, the government said "research suggests that there are extensive differences in treatment between age groups" in the two sectors. A Department of Health-commissioned study, also published last week, found older individual budget users received less funding than younger adults for equivalent levels of need. Pilots evaluation Drawing on the national evaluation of the individual budget pilots, the Personal Social Services Research Unit study said average care packages for older people would have to rise from £240 to £300 a week to bring provision in line with that for younger adults. This could add £2bn to annual council spending on adult social care in England. In mental health, the focus will be on the exclusion of people over 65 from some services, such as psychological therapies targeted at adults of working age, and age-based barriers between services which disrupt continuity of care. Divisions Kate Jopling, head of public affairs at Help the Aged, said specialist geriatric mental health services were justifiable to treat conditions such as dementia, but current divisions went beyond this. Jopling added that the personalisation agenda in social care, which will make public funding levels for each service user fully transparent, "provided the perfect opportunity to build out age discrimination".

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