Almost a quarter of councils are failing to provide up-to-date online information about Care Act assessments and eligibility criteria, figures released today show.
Independent Age’s Care Act Watch survey also found 70% of council websites did not provide people with all the information required by the Care Act and that phone enquiries to 39% of local authorities resulted in people being given partial or unsatisfactory answers.
The charity said this lack of information was preventing older people and carers from receiving timely assessments of their care and support needs.
Section 3 of the Care Act requires councils to provide an information and advice service, with information on the local care and support system, including assessment and eligibility; the choice of services locally; how to access care; how to access independent financial advice, and how to report abuse concerns. This should be provided through a variety of channels, including councils’ websites.
An Independent Age-commissioned review of all local authority websites in England, conducted in July 2015, found that 70% did not have information on all the areas required by the Care Act, and that 23% did not have up-to-date information on assessments and eligibility. One in seven councils did not provide information for carers, including their right to an assessment if it appeared that they may have current or future needs for support.
Lack of assessments
The charity also undertook an online survey of people about their experience of the Care Act, from September 2015 to March 2016.
Almost half (45%) of 290 people who took part in the survey identified themselves as carers and 66% of them said they had not received a carer’s assessment since April 2015, when the Care Act came into force. The charity’s report said this suggests a low awareness of carers’ right to an assessment.
Ciaran Osborne, head of policy and campaigns at Independent Age, said: “The delay in assessments appears to be caused by a number of issues. One element is that a lot of people may not be aware that they are entitled to an assessment in the first place. This is particularly true of carers.”
Wider cultural problem
Osborne added: “One of our respondents was a man in a care home, who paid for his own care, asking us if he ‘should have been assessed’. Clearly he wasn’t aware of assessments despite having care needs for a long period. This demonstrates a wider cultural problem about people not knowing that their local authority is there to support them accessing adult social care.
“Local authorities clearly have a role to play in ensuring that people are aware of the process of getting an assessment, as well as their right to have one. Our research into the information and advice that local authorities offer shows there’s much more councils could do in this area.”
A further Independent Age survey of councils in September 2015, 43% of councils were not complying with at least one of three key requirements of the Care Act in regard to top-up agreements: annual reviews of agreements, having written agreements in place before payment begins, and ensuring council involvement in all top-ups arrangements. Top-up agreements allow people to choose to move into more expensive accommodation than their council would pay for by paying a top-up fee.
“As our research shows a substantial number of local authorities are not yet meeting their legal requirements under the Care Act in a number of areas,” said Obsorne. “The result is that some people feel under pressure when applying for a care assessment, their needs are missed or misreported and challenging those decisions becomes much more difficult. It is crucial that those local authorities that are not routinely providing written records of assessments start to do so immediately.”