All councils have what we call eligibility criteria, which are thresholds for what levels of need they will meet by providing social care services. These levels are low, moderate, substantial and critical and each of a person’s needs will be put into one of these groupings when they are assessed. If a council’s eligibility criteria is moderate and above, it means someone with low needs might not get any support.
A council can change its eligibility criteria and many do so. Between 2010 and 2011 alone 17 councils tightened their eligibility criteria. When this happens some people might completely lose their support. Most councils have substantial and critical eligibility criteria, which means most people with a learning disability with low or moderate needs are not eligible for social care services.
Before a council can change its eligibility criteria it must hold a consultation with anyone who would be affected by the change and find out what they think. The council must also reassess the needs of anyone who is at risk of losing their support under the new rules, in case their needs have changed or there is a special reason why they should continue to receive support. If a council does not do either of these things it has broken the law.
If a person is not sure what a change in eligibility criteria could mean for them, they should speak to their social worker and ask them to explain. If the council is holding a consultation on proposed changes to eligibility criteria, the person should respond and tell the council what would happen to them if they lost their support. The council needs to hear how important the person’s services are and what the impact would be on their day-to-day life if they lost them.
If the council is changing its eligibility criteria and a person could lose their services but the council has not held a consultation or reassessed their needs, they should complain. For information on how to complain see the Making a complaint section. Many people will be affected by a change in eligibility criteria, so they could think about getting together to campaign against the change. They could get local media involved and try to put pressure on councillors to change their mind. Visit the Campaigning tips section for some more ideas.