As the season of party political conferences is upon us, where politicians make extravagant promises that we know will soon disappear like the early morning autumn mists, I thought I would take the opportunity to start a conversation about something that all political parties have been able to agree upon. I’m talking about the radical and historic change to care and support law that is the Care Act 2014. The main changes come into effect from April 2015 with the major reform to how care is funded, coming into effect after April 2016.
The Care Act 2014 marks a significant consolidation and modernisation of the piecemeal nature of current care and support law. The Act enables the government to make changes as well as repeal previous laws and replace them with legislation more in step with current thinking, rights and responsibilities. The legislation being repealed includes some the previous cornerstones of social care provision. These are the National Assistance Act 1948; the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (for adults); the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 and the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995.
Formulating the Care Act involved wide public consultation and no fewer than 107 recommendations for amendment were adopted before it was passed into the statute book and became law.
I thought I would start the conversation by giving you an overview of what the Care Act is aiming to achieve and in future blogs look at the main changes and consider how these will impact on individuals, health and social care workers and service provision.
The Care Act sets out new duties for local authorities and their partners and significantly, new rights for people who use services as well as their informal carers.
The Act aims to achieve clearer, fairer care and support for people, making them central to what is happening and in control of their care. One of the main difficulties people face when they reach a point of needing to ask for help is actually finding their way around the care system. Even people who work within it find it overly complex when they are faced with being ‘on the other side’ and are seeking support for themselves, family or friends. By having a single law the aim is to simplify processes and increase accessibility. In reality this means making sure that people have better access to information, advice and advocacy including independent advice about funding care costs.
The Act emphasises prevention with the aim of maximising independence and delaying the individuals’ need for care and support. The Act is underpinned by the new statutory principle of ‘wellbeing’ in relation to both the individual and their informal carer(s). There is a greater emphasis on collaboration, cooperation and integration with other public authorities including health and housing. This recognises the complexity of health, care and support needs that an individual may have and the need for a more holistic approach to meeting their needs effectively.
The Act includes a new model for care funding in response to the recommendations of the Dilnot Report. This means that people who are eligible will have a care account which will set out the estimated costs accumulated to date towards their cap (limit) on the care costs they are liable for.
For people funding their own care they will now be able to ask their local authority to arrange this care for them although they will be paying for it. This change will be a relief for many people who at a very stressful and vulnerable time in their lives are faced with having to make life changing decisions. As I said earlier even people who work in the sector find the system confusing so just think how overwhelming it is to someone who is unfamiliar with it all and is having to try and find the right care at the right time often within time pressures or a crisis situation. Compound this with trying to decide what ‘good care’ ‘looks like’ in terms of quality, reliability and consistency and you can see why this is will be a welcome change.
The Care Act strengthens the use of personal budgets, direct payments and personalisation so along with wellbeing I will be taking a look at what this will mean in practice, in future blogs. In the meantime if you want to know more about how the Dilnot Report recommendations about funding social care are being implemented then you can read about it in the King’s Fund Report ‘Paying for social care – Beyond Dilnot.’
Next time I’ll be looking at the central principle of ‘wellbeing’ and how that will change the approach to assessment and service provision.