Care minister paves way for independent appeals against council social care decisions

Norman Lamb's proposed Care Bill amendment would enable government to set up an appeals mechanism

Care and support minister Norman Lamb
Care and support minister Norman Lamb. Photo: Rex/Albanpix Ltd

A measure to allow people to challenge councils’ decisions on their care is set to be introduced through the Care Bill.

An amendment, proposed by care minister Norman Lamb, would allow an appeals system to be established through regulations under the bill.

Lamb’s proposal is due to be debated next week by the committee scrutinising the bill but should be passed because of widespread support for the measure.

The amendment says details on how the system would work – such as what sorts of cases could be appealed and who would consider them – could be set out in regulations if the system were introduced.

It would allows people who had an advocate to help them during assessments and care planning to also have that support during an appeal.

The idea of an independent care and support appeals tribunal to examine the merits of council decisions on care was proposed by the joint committee that scrutinised the Bill’s precursor, the Draft Care and Support Bill.

The committee said a tribunal was needed because of the introduction of a cap on people’s reasonable care costs, which would increase the number of people being assessed by local authorities and mean decisions on eligibility would be “highly contested”.

The Care Bill amendment was warmly welcomed by charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.

Its campaigns director, Jane Harris, said it was “ridiculous” that there was an appeals system to handle complaints about parking fines and school placement decisions made by local authorities but not care.

Currently people dissatisfied by the way their local authority has handled a complaint about social care can take their case to the independent Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). However, the LGO cannot consider the merits of a council’s decision, only whether the decision-making process and the way the decision was implemented were correct.

Harris pointed out that the amendment was just the “first step” towards an appeals system but that it had been made by the government so there was a good chance that it would result in such as system being established.

“This is a big step. It means hopefully there will be more national consistency. If they are bringing in national eligibility criteria [for care] then this fits with that approach,” she said.

She added: “Getting the right care is often a matter of life and death for millions of disabled and older people and their families. Until now people who are denied the care they need to get dressed, washed and eat have had no right to appeal their councils’ decision.”

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2 Responses to Care minister paves way for independent appeals against council social care decisions

  1. Adults social worker February 1, 2014 at 8:06 am #

    People can have a second opinion now. I think that we should explore that this option is used properly or even offered following a complaint before more money is spent on appeals.

    Even using the current prioritising need eligibility framework, people with needs as described above should be eligible as they are at critical risk to the their well being or independence, even if it is just one or two aspects of their care that they are unable to complete.

    There appears to be a clear lack of understanding of the current eligibility framework. Hopefully, the national fame work will this.

  2. Roger Hargreaves February 1, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    This may not be a big step at all, but just a limited improvement on the appeals system we’ve had for the last 24 years. What the local government bodies (and everybody else) have been asking for, and what the Committee on the Draft Bill recommended, is a tribunal – that is, an independent judicial body which makes enforceable decisions which can in turn be appealed to a higher court,

    However, this looks as if it may be no more than a formalisation and standardisation of the “Stage 3” review panels which have existed in various local forms since 1990, and which were explicitly intended, as well as hearing complaints, to provide a route of appeal against LSSAs’ decisions under the NHS and Community Care Act. Their membership is, however, determined by the LSSA itself and their decisions are only advisory, so they can’t force the LSSA to do something it isn’t prepared to do, nor has the appellant any further right of appeal.

    The government has all along been extremely reluctant to consider replacing this with a tribunal, and I would be pleasantly surprised if Norman Lamb signals an intention to create truly independent panels which can make decisions with resource implications for the LSSA which can be enforced without taking it to Judicial Review, as users and carers are forced to do now – if, that is, they can afford to since the cuts in Legal Aid.