Dilnot commission plans to overhaul social care assessments and eligibility risk loading extra bureaucracy on to social workers without delivering on their promise of fairer access to care.
That was the warning from a report today for the Social Care Institute for Excellence by social care consultant Melanie Henwood, which called for further examination of the practical implementation of the proposals and related assessment reforms put forward by the Law Commission.
Last year’s commission on funding reform, headed by Andrew Dilnot, proposed creating a national eligibility threshold for adult social care based on a more objective and easily understood assessment system, to ensure that access to care was equitable. Access to assessments would also be extended to many more people under Dilnot’s plans to put a cap on individuals’ lifetime care costs, which would be implemented by councils’ assessing and costing the needs of self-funders to track their progress towards the £35,000 cap.
Interviews with stakeholders for Henwood’s report found little appetite for any new assessment tool designed to create a more objective system, with interviewees concerned that it would “generate further bureaucracy and be a costly process” at a time when the current assessment process is already considered bureaucratic.
The pursuit of consistency would also be undermined by the fact that social workers exercised subjectivity and professional judgement in assessments, meaning reforms to assessment would have “major training and workforce implications”, she warned.
Henwood also stressed that a national eligibility threshold for formal social care would not ensure consistent access to support because it would not take into account access to lower-level services, information and advice, which are crucial to improving outcomes for individuals.
While she welcomed the opportunity Dilnot’s capped costs proposal created to give self-funders access to assessments, information and advice, she raised concerns about councils’ capacity to manage the increased numbers of assessments required.
Henwood’s report is designed to influence the government’s forthcoming White Paper and progress report on care funding reform, which will address the recommendations of the Law Commission and Dilnot respectively and lay the foundations for legislation on care and support.
The government is expected to accept Dilnot’s proposals for a national eligibility threshold and believed to be considering implementing a cap on care costs, though at a higher figure than £35,000.
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