Social workers ‘have key role in making Dilnot reforms work’

Social workers have a key role to play in making the Dilnot care funding reforms work, say professional leaders, including BASW's Ruth Cartwright (pictured) and the College of Social Work's Trudy Burns.

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Social workers have a key role to play in making the Dilnot care funding reforms work, professional leaders have said.

Proposals to improve advice and information and introduce a national system of assessment and eligibility have significant implications for practitioners, said the College of Social Work and BASW – the College of Social Work.

In its report today, the Commission on Funding of Care and Support called for improved information for people on care and its funding, with councils providing tailored advice to people based on their personal circumstances.

It also called for a national system of assessment and eligibility, the removal of councils’ power to set their own thresholds and for service users to be able to retain access to care when they move between areas.

“I would support social workers being at the heart of helping people meet their needs,” said Trudy Burns, a spokesperson for the College of Social Work and an East Sussex social worker. She said social workers should be involved in advising people who fail eligibility criteria about meeting their care needs and in signposting them to support.

“Social workers need to have a pre-eminent role in helping and informing people [about] a new system,” said Ruth Cartwright, manager for England at BASW – the College of Social Work.

The commission said the national threshold for care should initially be set at the current “substantial” level – ahead of a more through review of eligibility.

Though three-quarters of councils already set a substantial threshold, Burns raised concerns that such an approach might divert resources from prevention.

“I hope that any review of care criteria acknowledged the need for prevention,” she said.

Cartwright said any national eligibility system should allow social workers to use their professional judgement in deciding on access to care. She added that the Dilnot proposals were a chance to correct problems with the system of community care assessments, which have been seen as over-bureaucratic.

Dilnot told Community Care: “We don’t think it means the end of local variability in the way in which needs are met. So there will still be a task for social workers to undertake in working out what’s the best package fo care for the environment in which individuals find themselves in, but we do think it will be somewhat simpler becauwe we will have a national system.”

Burns added that it was “brilliant” that the commission had said people who develop care needs before they turn 40 should receive free support. “To acknowledge that they cannot plan or put something in place to meet their care needs is good,” she said.

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