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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 03:32 GMT
Councils 'rationing' social care
Elderly person
Figures show wide variations in rationing of care between regions
Social care for elderly and disabled people in England is being rationed so severely that councils are supporting only the most needy, campaigners say.

The Learning Disability Coalition said three quarters of local authorities had decided to restrict assistance.

Campaigners and councils say government funding has not kept pace with growing numbers of elderly and disabled people.

But the Department of Health said councils must use "record investment" in more innovative and flexible ways.

Vulnerable people

Any adult wanting help from their local social services is assessed to see if their needs are low, moderate, substantial or critical.

The coalition, which represents a group of charities, analysed figures to find that many councils had rationed support over the past three years.

By next April, three quarters of councils will confine help to only people with critical or substantial needs, according to the coalition.

Campaigners say this excludes many people whose needs may be classed as moderate but are still vulnerable, and struggle to do basic tasks such washing themselves, carrying shopping or walking upstairs.

Councils accept the situation is unfair but blame central government by saying funding has not kept pace with growing numbers of elderly and disabled people.

'Devastating news'

The coalition's figures showed wide variations between regions, with services in the West Midlands being the most rationed and those in the East Midlands the most generous.

Liberal Democrat communities spokesman Andrew Stunell said the Budget settlement for local councils could be "devastating news" for older people and those with learning disabilities.

He said: "Even the local government minister has admitted that next year's local government settlement is going to be tight.

"The government must ensure that the most vulnerable in society aren't left behind by cuts in services."

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