The Care Bill is on the verge of becoming law after completing its passage through the House of Commons. The bill received an unopposed third reading in the Commons and must now return to the House of Lords for consideration of amendments made by MPs.
Both Houses of Parliament must agree a final version of the bill before it receives Royal Assent and becomes law.
While the vast majority of Commons amendments, such as the inclusion of provisions to set up a system of independent appeals against councils’ social care decisions, are likely to be accepted by peers, one area of dispute will be the human rights liabilities of care providers.
During its passage through the Lords, the bill was amended to include provisions to bind all providers of regulated care services by the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998 in respect of all service users, including self-funders.
This was then reversed by the government in the Commons. However, earlier this week care minister Norman Lamb suggested that the government may offer a concession on this issue in the House of Lords, by amending the bill to make clear that all recipients of state-commissioned care were under the protection of the Human Rights Act.
Following the passage of the bill, the government will publish draft regulations and statutory guidance setting how it intends for the legislation to be implemented. These will be subject to consultation and provide much more detail on the implications of the Care Bill for practice than the primary legislation itself.
Among issues that will be covered in regulations are:-
- the eligibility threshold for care and support, for service users and carers;
- how the system of independent appeals against council decisions will work;
- charges for service users and carers;
- the circumstances under which the Care Quality Commission may inspect councils’ commissioning arrangements;
The government has also promised to publish statutory guidance on how councils should commission care. Guidance has also been promised on how social workers and other practitioners should use existing legal powers to safeguard vulnerable adults, after the government rejected calls to introduce a new power of entry.