A row has broken out over whether residents in Lancashire are being refused social care - and even dying - because of a delay in publication of a government plan for the sector.
Conservative cabinet member for adult services, Graham Gooch, described as “pretty shabby” a question by Labour opposition leader, Azhar Ali, which asked how many people had “lost their lives due to this government’s incompetence”.
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But County Coun Ali insisted that the crisis was real and that families were being pushed “to breaking point”.
A so-called green paper into the future of adult social care was first proposed in March 2017, but is yet to emerge.
Figures from the charity Age UK, cited by County Coun Ali, estimate that more than 600,000 people nationally have been refused social care in the two years since - and that 54,000 have died while waiting for a care package.
But County Coun Gooch disputed how the figures had been interpreted and said nobody who met the criteria for care in the county had been refused.
In a written response, he said that the 626,000 people which Age UK had identified as having “no service provided” to them had not necessarily been refused care.
“Many people will have found other ways to have their needs met or resolved without involvement of a council – some have actually recovered, but they are still counted in these figures,” he said.
A letter to County Coun Ali said the equivalent figure for Lancashire of the number of people not recorded as having a service provided to them was 10,500.
“This does not however mean their needs were not met or they were refused services”, the letter states.
County Coun Gooch also refuted the claim that residents were dying as a result of their wait for care. He estimated that, within Lancashire, 1,655 people who had requested services had died before before receiving them.
“[This] does not indicate that death would have been prevented had they been in receipt of services. Many of these people would have been at a point in their lives where death may have been imminently expected,” he said, adding that 20 per cent of those who receiving care had also died in the last year.
But County Coun Ali said the figures showed that just under 1,000 people per district in Lancashire were being left without the care they needed or dying while waiting for it.
“This is unacceptable - I regularly receive calls from right across Lancashire from relatives of people, especially those with mental health issues, who are tearing their hair out.
“This is not an attack on Lancashire County Council - it’s an attack on the lack of the promised green paper for social care.
“Because it hasn’t been produced and because there is no proper national guidance, people are not being deemed to meet the criteria for a care package.
“MPs across all parties need be shouting this from the rooftops - the system is broken and families are being broken by it,” County Coun Ali said.
A spokesperson for Department for Health and Social Care said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the care and support they need and have provided local authorities with access to up to £3.6 billion more dedicated funding for adult social care this year and up to £3.9 billion for next year to help meet people’s needs.
“We are determined to make social care sustainable for the future and will publish our proposals in a green paper shortly.”