All English councils bar one are confident in their ability to deliver the Care Act on its implementation next Wednesday (1 April) but over a quarter fear they lack the money to do so.
That was the message from the final stocktake of readiness of all councils published by the Local Government Association on the eve of the implementation of the act’s measures to reform care and support.
Conducted in January and February, the stocktake was answered by all 152 councils in England, all but one of whom assessed themselves as very or fairly confident to deliver the reforms coming into force next week.
Changes coming into force next week include a new assessment and care planning framework for service users, underpinned by national eligibility criteria, a lowered threshold for an assessment for carers and, for the first time, an entitlement to support for eligible carers.
Three-quarters of authorities said they were on track to deliver the reforms the April 2015 reforms and a quarter said they were slightly behind track. However, 28% said they were not very (21%) or not at all (7%) confident that they had sufficient funding in their budgets to implement the same reforms. Just 3% said they were very confident that they had sufficient funding.
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These fears were related to concerns about the potential demand for assessments and support from carers. Ninety per cent of councils mentioned uncertainty over the additional demand from carers as an area of risk for implementation.
The stocktake also revealed issues about whether local authorities would have required services in place by 1 April. Eleven per cent of councils said their universal information and advice service – a requirement under section 4 of the act – would not be in place by April. In addition, 12% said they would not have commissioned appropriate levels of local advocacy services to meet the new duty to provide independent advocacy by next month.
Final parliamentary hurdle cleared
Meanwhile, the final parliamentary hurdle for implementing the act has been cleared after the Houses of Commons and Lords both approved a statutory instrument to replace the current suite of community care legislation with the Care Act in England. The Care Act 2014 and Children and Families Act 2014 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2015 allows for the existing law to remain in force in Wales until the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 comes into force in April 2016.
Now the consequential amendments order has been passed, the government will publish two further orders to finalise the implementation of the act.
- The Care Act 2014 (Transitional Provision) Order 2015, which will allow existing legislation to remain in force for current service users in certain cases;
- The Care Act (Commencement No 4) Order 2015, which will formally bring the Care Act’s adult social care reforms into force.
Criticism over late publication
Neither of these require parliamentary approval. However, in yesterday’s Commons debate on the consequential amendments order, Labour shadow health minister Jamie Reed raised concerns over the fact that the final statutory instruments were being published in the week before the act’s implementation.
He said: “Lack of certainty about the detail of the transitional arrangements a mere week before part 1 of the Care Act is implemented will do little to ease its implementation and mitigate local authorities’ concerns about their preparedness and capacity to manage the new system, especially in light of the massive cuts to their budgets.”
However, in response, care minister Norman Lamb said that the transitional order merely formalised arrangements for transition from old to new legislation that were set out last October.
He also pointed to the stocktake results showing councils’ overall readiness to implement the act, and said that the Department of Health had worked in partnership with local authorities to implement the legislation through a joint office with the LGA and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.