Austerity ‘may derail legislation to transform social care’

Government aim of turning social care into a "well-being service" are doomed without more resources, say council chiefs.

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About the draft Care and Support Bill

The draft Care and Support Bill is designed to consolidate existing adult social care law into a single statute and modernise the social care system so that it promotes personalisation, independence and well-being rather than dependence and crisis response. It largely confers duties on local authorities alone. Its key measures require councils to:-

  • Promote individuals’ well-being through care and support;
  • Provide a care information and advice service;
  • Promote a diverse market in high-quality services;
  • Provide or arrange services to prevent people developing care needs;
  • Co-operate with partners such as the NHS and police – who will have reciprocal duties;
  • Promote integration of care and health where this will improve well-being;
  • Assess people and carers who appear to need support;
  • Provide support for people and carers with eligible needs;
  • Prepare a care and support plan for people with eligible needs and keep this under review;
  • Provide people with eligible needs with a personal budget;
  • Meet those needs of a person moving into their area that were being met by their previous council;
  • Make enquiries where they suspect an adult in need of care is at risk of abuse and neglect and cannot safeguard themselves
  • Establish a safeguarding adults board for their area.

The government’s cuts agenda risks the failure of legislation to transform social care from a crisis-response to a preventive service, council chiefs have warned.

They say ministers have failed to allocate enough resources to implement the draft Care and Support Bill, their welfare reform agenda appears at odds with the bill’s goals of empowering service users and they have placed unrealistic burdens on councils through the bill.

The criticisms come in separate responses to the consultation on the bill – which closed on Friday – from the Local Government Association (LGA) and Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (Solace), and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass).

Cuts undermine bill

Both responses welcomed the draft bill’s ambitions to promote personalisation and prevention, and strengthen entitlements to support for people and their carers. But Adass warned that there was a “fundamental mismatch” between these and the “wider auterity programme, particularly welfare reform”, an agenda that includes substantial cuts to benefits for disabled people.

The LGA and Solace said the portrayal of vulnerable people as a burden on society in some coverage of welfare reform went against the draft bill’s empowering ethos.

Local authorities will face significant new duties under the bill – including to provide an information and advice service, preventive services and support for carers with eligible needs, and to promote a diverse market in high-quality services.

Costs of bill underestimated

Both responses said the government’s impact assessments of the costs of implementing the bill significantly underestimated the likely costs to councils.

“Without a clear commitment from government on funding for social care reform the admirable aspirations of the bill will simply not be realised,” warned the LGA and Solace.

The associations also warned that some duties on councils in the bill were unworkable or could only be made to work if duties were also placed on other agencies.

Unworkable duties

Adass said the duty to promote a diverse, high-quality care market was “wholly unrealistic” because large numbers of providers had no contact with councils, while the LGA and Solace said this could only be performed in partnership with regulators the Care Quality Commission and Monitor.

It also said the duty to provide services to prevent or delay people needing care appeared “too onerous and unworkable”, particularly provisions for councils to identify adults in their area with unmet needs for support.

The LGA and Solace said the duty to provide preventive services had to also be placed on NHS commissioners as well if it were to be effective.

Young carers concerns

Adass also expressed concerns about the impact of the bill on young carers and parents of disabled children, in a separate response with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

The draft bill would give adult carers of adults who appear in need of support an entitlement to an assessment, removing current requirements on them to request an assessment. However, the need to request an assessment would still apply to young carers and family carers of children.

Adass and ADCS said there was also no requirement in the bill, where a young carer was identified, to meet a parents’ need for support in order to reduce or avoid the need for the child to care.

They said the bill “created serious anomalies” and “sends completely the wrong policy message to young carers and their families”. It said the legislation needed to ensure councils identified young carers and focused on adequately meeting adults’ needs so that inappropriate caring responsibilities were not conferred on children.

Next steps

The draft bill will be scrutinised in detail by a committee of MPs and peers before the government introdues a full bill next year.

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