A month of upheaval as profession is buffeted by the winds of change

Anti-social behaviour

Police forces have new powers under the Police and Reform Act 2002
to accredit people, including neighbourhood and street wardens, to
support officers in tackling antisocial behaviour and crime. Most
applications are likely to come from local authorities, housing
associations and the voluntary sector, and accredited staff will be
given targeted powers at the discretion of chief constables to deal
with low-level disorder and public nuisance.


Under reforms to the asylum appeal process contained in the
Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, asylum seekers whose
claims have been rejected in the UK no longer have the right to
appeal if they have already claimed asylum in another European
Union country. Unsuccessful asylum seekers will now be returned to
the place where they made their initial claim.


The new services standards and principles for employees of the
Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service apply from
this week. The new standards set out the service that Cafcass
clients are entitled to, what constitutes a breach and how to lodge


Invalid care allowance has been renamed carer’s allowance to remove
the negative connotations associated with the word “invalid” and to
make clear that the benefit is for carers and their needs. The
allowance has also been raised to £43.15 a week from

Care standards

The National Care Standards Commission has taken over
responsibility for domiciliary care agencies. The commission will
inspect the services against the national minimum standards and
regulations which were published in December. It is also now
responsible for residential family centres, which accommodate and
monitor children with their parents and assist with parenting

Children at risk

All local agencies responsible for delivering services to children
and young people in every top tier and unitary authority area are
required to have a co-ordinated strategy for preventive services
for children and young people in place from this month. Former
minister for young people John Denham announced the scheme last
September and said essential parts of the strategy would be
effective systems to identify children and families needing
support, to exchange information between agencies and track
progress through agency referrals. The measures are part of the
government’s preventive strategy for developing services for
children at risk, a green paper on which is expected in early

Direct payments

Regulations preventing disabled people using direct payments to
employ spouses or other close relatives as their paid carers have
been relaxed. Under the Community Care, Services for Carers and
Children’s Services (Direct Payments) (England) Regulations 2003,
disabled people will be able to use direct payments to employ close
relatives “in exceptional circumstances”. From this week, all
councils became obliged to offer direct payments as an alternative
to existing services for adults.

Fair Access to Care Services

A non-negotiable eligibility framework of “bands of need”, first
mentioned in the 1998 white paper Modernising Social Services, has
been introduced under the Fair Access to Care Services guidance. It
aims to ensure that every adult is treated in a consistent way by
their local authority and that people living in neighbouring
streets with the same needs are offered the same levels of support.
A person’s needs will be categorised as “critical, substantial,
moderate or low” depending on how their independence could be
affected if the services are not provided.

Free nursing care

The three bands of funding levels for free nursing care for people
in care homes have been increased from £35, £70 and
£110 to £40, £75 and £120. Individuals are
assessed as qualifying for a band depending on their needs and an
estimated 42,000 self-funding care home residents were said to have
benefited from the initiative when it was introduced in October
2001. In addition, the funding of the nursing care of 85,000
state-funded care home residents was transferred this month from
local authorities to the NHS.

Foster carers

Up to 8,000 foster carers could benefit from the government’s home
responsibility protection. This enables the carers to accrue
national insurance contributions while they foster children. But it
will not apply retrospectively, can only be claimed for 20 years
and will not help many carers that already receive little state
pension. Local income tax arrangements for foster carers have also
been scrapped in favour of a national threshold, which will
standardise non-taxable income. Under the new scheme, payments to
cover the capital costs of providing foster care services up to
£10,000 will be tax free, as will weekly living expenses of
£200 for each fostered child aged 11 or younger or £250
for each over-11.

Primary care trusts

From this month these will begin to take responsibility for
three-quarters of the NHS’s budget. This could shift the NHS
balance of power from secondary to primary care and give care
professionals a greater say in developing local services to meet
the specific needs of certain client groups. Also from this week,
the 400-odd PCTs, along with mental health trusts, will have their
services monitored against performance indicators, which will be
used to calculate their first performance ratings.


For the first time, social care is to be regulated. Social workers
are to be the first of an estimated 1.5 million care professionals
to be invited to pay £30 to enlist with the General Social
Care Council-administered register.

Supporting People

The government’s programme for financing housing with support in
the UK aims to enable vulnerable people to live in their own homes
for longer periods by providing them with appropriate support.
Announced in 1998, the single stream of funding to be administered
by local authorities comprises several revenues, including
transitional housing benefit, supported housing management grant,
probation accommodation grant, income support and jobseekers
allowance. All local authorities have set up a commissioning body
involving relevant stakeholders and have mapped current and future
Supporting People need locally.

Tax credits

The working families’ tax credit, the children’s tax credit and the
disabled person’s credit have been replaced by the child tax credit
and the working tax credit. The child tax credit is payable to
families with at least one child. It is paid at a higher rate if
the child has a disability and at an enhanced rate if a child is
severely disabled. The child tax credit, along with the child care
element of the working tax credit, will bring together all
income-related support for children in a single payment. The
working tax credit is paid to parents earning low to medium wages
who work at least 16 hours a week. It is paid to the main carer. An
element within it can be used to pay for child care as long as it
is provided outside the home in a registered setting.

Working parents

Employers have a duty under new laws for working parents to
consider requests for flexible working arrangements from parents
with disabled children aged under 18 and parents of able-bodied
children aged under six. Adoptive parents whose children are placed
with them on or after 6 April 2003 will be entitled to 26 weeks’
paid ordinary adoption leave immediately followed by up to 26
weeks’ additional leave.

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