Service users give mixed verdict on Care Act’s impact

Survey finds most people don't feel care has improved since the legislation's introduction

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Photo: Gary Brigden

Most people using social care feel the introduction of the Care Act 2014 has not improved the quality of help they get, a government-commissioned survey suggests.

The poll of 1,100 service users and carers found just 29% felt their care had improved in the first year of the act coming into force. A quarter felt things had got worse.

The Department of Health asked personalisation charity Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) to carry out the research, as a means of gauging the impact of the act since it came into force in April 2015

The results paint a mixed picture. While more than half of respondents (56%) said they were still satisfied with the quality of their support and 69% felt the care they received made a positive difference to their wellbeing, TLAP said other findings raised “major” concerns over how councils are implementing key planks of the Care Act in practice:

  • Only a quarter of respondents felt councils had frequently listened to their views when drawing up support plans.
  • Just under half (49%) felt their choices were always or frequently respected.
  • More than half (51%) found it difficult to access information and advice about care options.
  • There was “low uptake” of Care Act advocacy, with more than two-thirds of respondents saying they had never been offered an advocate.

Clenton Farquharson, chair of the TLAP board, said the results sent a “clear message” that more needed to be done to embed the act’s principles in practice.

He said: “We particularly need to draw attention to what we describe as the ‘rhetoric vs  reality’ gap, between what people with care needs are  experiencing, and what council colleagues perceive and say is happening when they work to embed personalisation”.

TLAP warned the findings showed a “marked difference” between council and service user opinions on the act’s implementation. The most recent Local Government Association stocktake – the main official survey of council views on Care Act progress – found 81% felt the Care Act had made a positive difference on practice.

Margaret Willcox, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said councils were seeking to offer personalised social care “in a very difficult financial climate”.

She said: “Many local authorities have worked hard in challenging financial circumstances to give people greater choice and control. Despite the growing financial pressures, there is consensus that the principles of personalisation should be supported.

“Individuals should be in charge of their own care and support and have control and choice over the key decisions that affect them. However, despite challenges there are still some excellent local initiatives such as, Barnet, Derby, Shropshire and North East Lincolnshire.”

The association’s latest annual budget survey, published today, reveals the pressure to make significant cuts means just 29% of directors were fully confident they would meet their statutory duties this year. ADASS warned that some savings targets had proved “impossible” to deliver.

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