Government announces £175m to meet cost of Care Act assessment burden

Money will fund assessments of self-funders in 2015-16 ahead of introduction of 'cap' on care costs in April 2016

Pic credit: Burger/Phanie/Rex Features

English local authorities will share £175m next year to pay for assessments of self-funding service users who want to be considered for the ‘cap’ on their care costs, ahead of the policy’s introduction in April 2016.

The funding was announced yesterday, as part of a Department of Health consultation on how it and funding allocations for two other Care Act 2014 provisions – the introduction of a universal deferred payments scheme for residential care users (£108.5m) and the provision of social care assessments and support for prisoners (£11.2m) – should be distributed.

Under the cap policy, self-funders aged over 65 would start receiving free care and support once the sum that their council would have spent on meeting their unmet eligible needs – had it been doing so – reaches £72,000, in 2016 terms.

Expected surge in assessments

But to qualify for the scheme, people would have to have their needs assessed and then reviewed each year, with those with eligible needs receiving a care account to track their progress towards the cap. This is expected to trigger a surge in assessments, and to help cope with the demand, the Department of Health has allowed councils to start assessing people for the cap in 2015-16, before the policy’s introduction.

As well as covering these additional assessments, the £175m is designed to help councils raise awareness of the new care funding regime and to build capacity to do the additional assessments. This could involve establishing systems to outsource assessments and to enable online self-assessments by service users – two ideas the government has put forward to help councils manage the additional demand.

Jonathan Gardam, policy manager at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said it was unclear how many people would want to be assessed. He said: “We may know potentially how many self-funders there may be, but we cannot predict how many will put themselves forward for assessment in 2015-16 ahead of the cap. Equally, people already in the system could ask for a review of their current assessment to see if they quality for the new arrangements.”

Today, Adass will publish a tool developed by Lincolnshire County Council to estimate the numbers of self-funders who could ask for an early assessment and carers who might want to be assessed under new provisions in the Care Act.

Gardam said Adass would like councils to use the model over the summer to help inform the work it is doing with Department of Health to establish the costs of these two groups of assessments and see whether the funding proposed is adequate.

Funding formula changes

Because the beneficiaries of the cap and the deferred payment scheme are largely wealthier self-funders, not the poorer users of mainstream, means-tested social care, government funding for the schemes needs to be distributed on a different basis to general funding for care from Whitehall.

Based on research by consultancy LG Futures and the Personal Social Services Research Unit, the consultation put forward two options for distributing the £175m, based on different ways of estimating the number of self-funders in each area.

The consultation also gave two options for how the government could fund the estimated £108.5m cost to councils of setting up deferred payments schemes. These mean that people can have their care home fees met upfront by their council, with the authority recouping the costs on the sale of the person’ property, often after death.

While some councils offer deferred payments already, from April 2015, they will be obliged to offer them to all homeowning residential care users with assets worth less than £23,250, excluding their home, where their home is not occupied by a spouse or a dependent.
The DH has accepted a formula created by LG Futures and the PSSRU for the distribution of the deferred payment allocation. It said the options were to simply allocate the money using the formula or to adjust the amount handed out based on the amount councils already spend on deferred payments.
The consultation paper provided illustrative allocations for each council for the deferred payment and early assessment funding but the final figures will be updated to reflect the latest data. The formulae for both grants will be peer reviewed during the summer.
The consultation closes on 9 October 2014 and responses can be submitted online or by emailing scallocations@dh.gsi.gov.uk

A London Councils spokeswoman said the capitals councils should get enough funding for early assessments under the formula proposed in the consultation.

She said: “Care users in the capital are likely to reach their contribution limit in London much earlier than in other parts of the country, because the cost of care is so much higher. Our estimates are that boroughs will need £90million in 2015/16 to prepare for the new system, of which at least £21.6million will be needed to cover the costs of delivering additional care assessments.The draft funding formulae for implementing the Care Act in 2015/16, announced today, should recognise these additional pressures and costs for London boroughs.”

A spokeswoman for the Local Government Association said it was still evaluating whether the government funding for the first year of the deferred payments scheme was sufficient and councils would continue to work with the Department of Health on the likely costs of and demand for assessment under the Care Act.

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