The government will bid to cut social work bureaucracy to accommodate a significant increase in assessments and reviews brought about by its care funding reforms.
Councils are expected to assess an additional 180,000 to 230,000 people and carry out an additional 440,000 to 530,000 reviews in 2016-17, because funding reforms under the Care Bill will incentivise many more self-funders to approach their council.
Only by having their needs assessed and regularly reviewed will self-funders be able to take advantage of the £72,000 cap on their eligible care costs. Councils will use regular reviews to update a “care account” for self-funders, tracking their progress to the cap. And many more self-funders will be eligible for help with their residential care costs under the plan to extend means-tested support to people with assets worth up to £118,000 including their home, up from £23,250 now.
The government today launched a consultation on how the funding reforms should be implemented. One key issue is managing the significant hike in assessments. Councils are due to receive about £1bn a year in additional funding to implement the reforms, over £200m of which will fund additional assessments and reviews.
The consultation document said it was key that assessments were made less bureaucratic to enable this increase to be implemented, and said a “range of option” would be used to provide assessments. The government will explore how social care assessments can be integrated with those for the NHS or benefits such as attendance allowance.
Care services minister Norman Lamb said encouraging self-funders to make contact with their local authority and receive an assessment would enable them to get advice and support on meeting their needs and preventing them from increasing.
“If you are a self-funder you are mostly on yoru own,” he said. “The idea of getting people having a conversation much earlier about how to plan to prevent a deterioration of their condition [is a good one]. That so many people’s conditions deteriorates is a key lement of our dysfunctional system.”
Councils will receive £335m in 2015-16 in part to help them prepare for the implementation of the care cap and extended means-test the following year. As part of this they will be allowed to start assessing self-funders wanting to be considered for the cap six months before its implementation in April 2016.
The government also announced that it would reform the system of means-testing for home care which, unlike the system for residential care, currently allows for significant variations between councils. In future there is likely to be more consistency, as the government will limit means-tested support to people with savings of up to £27,000. This limit will also apply to people in residential care whose home is not taken into account in the means-test, for instance because it is still occupied by their partner or a dependent relative.