After forty years of remaining unchanged, legislation relating to social services care is now undergoing a major overhaul. The fact that the Care Act is passing through parliament without opposition from any of the major parties shows the near unanimous support for the proposed changes to legislation. The emphasis will shift from being about people responsible for providing care, to focusing on how to meet the needs of the people who need care..
There will be one uniform route through which all applications for care will be channelled, eliminating the current variations in the process. Entitlement to support will be assessed in a consistent manner so will be deemed fairer. The capped cost system will go hand in hand with this when it is introduced. There will also be a new system for appealing against decisions on eligibility to funding.
New requirements will be implemented for local authorities in three key areas of care: prevention, information and provision.
Local authorities will have responsibility for ensuring that people receive the care they need to prevent their conditions from becoming more serious or at least to delay any decline as far as possible. The Local authority will have to identify services available locally. They will also be responsible for identifying those who need care which is not currently being provided. This will include providing assistance to carers who have not been getting the support they need to look after the person in their care.
There will also be a requirement for local authorities to provide services which will foster independence and minimise peoples care needs, for example through rehabilitation after a period of temporary ill health where there is an opportunity for the person to recover their previous capabilities and independence.
The Care Act information
Everyone should have advice and information made available to them about the care services available in their locality how to apply for them and how they can be funded. Information will need to be provided on the full range of services from home visits to services for those with dementia. There will also be a requirement to provide a process for reporting concerns about a person in need of care services.
Local authorities will need to work with providers to ensure that there is adequate choice for people needing care with a full range of services to meet different needs, such as stairlift installation. Services provided will need to be of a satisfactory standard and should meet the needs of the individual, rather than being designed to meet the productivity targets of the provider.
Note that this information is based on the process for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Full details are available at disabled facilities grants.
The Care Act also aims to remove geographical anomalies, the so called "postcode lottery" which has previously resulted in a significant variation in the quality and range of services provided in different parts of the country. The consensus of opinion is that the Care Act will offer a significant improvement in the provision of social care services.