Panels to approve support plans should be exception not norm, says guidance on Care Act

Limiting use of approval panels will reduce anxiety and paperwork says sector coalition Think Local Act Personal support planning guide

Picture credit: Monkey Business Images/Rex Features

Minimising the use of approval panels to sign off support plans will reduce bureaucracy and strengthen person-centred support, according to guidance on making plans Care Act compliant.

The ‘delivering care and support planning’ guidance, published today by sector coalition Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), recommends that councils use panels to approve plans only in exceptional cases, if at all.

The sector coalition, whose remit is to promote personalisation, says putting all care and support plans through a panel, as some councils do, is ‘overly bureaucratic’ and can cause anxiety for the individual involved.

Involving individuals

If panels continue to operate, the guidance recommends councils are clear about how they will involve service users in meetings to ensure choice and control are promoted.

This would bring services into line with the requirements of the Care Act 2014, whose statutory guidance states that panels should not be used to ‘amend or micro-manage’ care and support planning decisions.

An example of an exceptional case needing panel approval would be where the personal budget allocation is larger than usual, or the plan is particularly distinctive.

The guidance also states that all care and support plans should be approved where the way the person wants to spend their budget meets their outcomes and assessed needs.

Councils should be clear about the cost of approval arrangements, including the time it takes to complete the process and the knock-on effect of delayed decisions and reviews.

What works well?

The document also highlights a series of practice examples from 12 local authorities, including the People2People social work practice in Shropshire.

In Shropshire, there is no panel for approving plans and instead the council has delegated powers of authority for all expenditure under £1,000 per week to the practice. For costs over £1,000 or very complex cases, a weekly conference call is held to discuss and resolve any issues.

In Doncaster, social workers telephone the direct payments team to arrange implementation as soon as possible. An individual’s support plan is only signed off once they have received their first payment and put it into practice, meaning approval is based on how well the arrangement is working.

Sam Bennett, director of TLAP, said: “This guide brings together what we know constitutes the best approach to person-centred care and support planning. While there is much positive practice, it is also true that there is wide variation in people’s experiences of this.”

“It remains a concern and a greater emphasis on the individual, as well as co-production with people, families and carers, will ensure people really are in control of their own lives.”

The guidance forms part of a suite of resources commissioned by the Department of Health to support local government in implementing the Care Act 2014, most of which comes into force on 1 April, 2015.

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Practice advice on the Care Act

An expert-written guide to care and support planning is among a suite of resources to support social workers to implement the Care Act available on Community Care Inform Adults, our online resource to help practitioners in their day-to-day work. Find out more about Inform Adults.

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