Posted: 28 June, 2002
A £200m fund aimed at improving equipment services for disabled people is not being spent according to Ministers’ wishes, says a new report.
The damning report by the Audit Commission says it appears the money is being siphoned off by health and social services bosses to meet "higher priorities".
Some people may wait up to six years for equipment, says the commission, which has found few improvements since issuing a similar report two years ago.
The new report, Fully Equipped 2002, looks at provision of audiology equipment, wheelchairs, artificial limbs, orthotics, and community equipment like walker frames.
It found that only 13 per cent of community equipment services actually received any of the £200m aimed at improving them since the phased introduction of the money began in 2001.
Equipment is often of "dubious quality", while people commissioning the services have no idea of the level of demand for equipment. Eligibility criteria are also getting tighter for community services.
Ann Stead, chair of disability charity Radar and newly retired director of disability services at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, was appalled at the national picture.
She said: "We need a national strategy for disablement services. Somebody at the top needs to care about this."
Maggie Winchcombe, director of development services at the Disabled Living Centres Council, said: "This time last year, there was so much promise with the new money. The reality is that it has not flowed through."
Sam Gallop, chair of equipment campaigns umbrella group emPOWER, said he believed that budgets were being cut in mobility centres, and that hospitals had also diverted money intended for prosthetics.
The report recommends that mobility services providing orthotics, prosthetics and wheelchair services should be coordinated by prosthetics services, as they appear to be most effective.
The report also suggests that more fundamental changes need to be made to the services, such as provision through public-private partnerships and direct payments to individuals.
Copyright Youreable 2000, 2001 & 2002