Social care teams are expected to complete more than 330,000 extra assessments in 2016-17 as a result of the Care Act’s cap on care costs, Department of Health figures reveal.
A cap on care costs and a revised means-testing system will be introduced under the Act from 1 April 2016. The government is also consulting on plans for a cap on care costs for working age adults. The changes mean a large number of people who currently self-fund their care are expected to request assessments in order to register their progress towards the cost cap or to be considered for local authority support under the revised means-test.
The cost of the changes
Figures provided by the government (see table below) show that social care teams are predicted to have carried out 332,245 extra assessments linked to the changes in 2016-17. The government has given local authorities £146m to plan and prepare for the cap in 2015-16, although this was reduced from an initial allocation of £175m under revisions to the funding allocations announced in December. The care cap changes will also require councils to carry out an extra 259,308 care reviews in 2016-17.
A DH impact assessment published this week predicts that the extra costs of additional assessments, review and care management will be £255.1m in 2016-17.
Councils are looking at several options to boost their assessment capacity to help them cope with the demand. These include online assessments, third-party assessments and setting up specialist self-funder assessment teams.
David Pearson, president of the Association of the Directors of Adult Social Services, said that the potential extra assessment demand was a “major challenge” for local authorities. He said the government’s predictions for the number of extra assessments was “reasonable” but warned that local authorities and the DH had to carefully monitor how the predictions played out in practice.
“A lot of workforce planning is being done, and has been done, by local authorities. We need to work out what will be needed, get the right balance of qualified and unqualified staff, and look at how local authorities can work together on this so that everyone isn’t competing for the same people. We’ve been encouraging regional collaboration on this and I’ve seen some very good models from local authorities taking that forward,” he said.
How the cap will work
The cap, which will initially be set at £72,000 for anyone aged over 25 when they approach their local authority with eligible needs, will be measured according to how much a council would have spent on meeting the person’s eligible needs had it been doing so. Beyond that figure people will receive free care and support, though people in care homes will still have to pay up to £230 a week to meet their daily living costs, on a means-tested basis.
To access the cap, self-funders will need to undergo an assessment to identify their eligible needs and establish an independent personal budget setting out the notional cost to the council of meeting them. They would also have to have their needs reviewed each year, and their accrued costs will be measured through a “care account” until they reach the cap.
The government is consulting on a set of draft regulations and guidance on how the changes will work in practice. You can respond directly on the government’s Care Act consultation website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.