The Department of Health has given the green light for a full review of adult social care law in England and Wales, with the aim of creating a single over-arching statute.
The review will be undertaken by the Law Commission, which today published the results of a scoping exercise to identify the main areas for potential reform.
The DH has indicated to the commission that it can consult on all of the areas it highlighted except systems of complaint or redress for service users, including the possible establishment of a community care tribunal to hear cases.
The purpose of the review is to clear up outdated, overlapping and inadequate legislation, and create a single statute along the lines of the Children Act 1989.
Care services minister Phil Hope said: “The law in relation to adult social care has not been systematically reformed since 1948. This demonstrates the importance of the review we've asked the Law Commission to do.
“It is vital that we create a clear, efficient and sustainable legal framework, which is easy to understand and can accommodate future changes to government policy.
“This reform will help ensure that organisations, professionals and individuals understand the law and its application and are able to challenge it when it is not followed."
Kenneth Parker QC, who is leading the project, said: "There is no single modern statute to which disabled people, carers and social care staff can look to understand whether services can or should be provided. Our ultimate aim is to provide this."
Areas for reform will include introducing legal statutory principles to enable councils, service users and carers to understand their functions and entitlements, and looking at placing a statutory duty on councils and NHS bodies to co-operate to improve health and social care joint working.
It will also examine the legal framework for safeguarding adults, including powers to remove people from their homes and enter premises.
The commission said it thought the issue of user redress and complaint would have been a "useful addition to the project" but said it "understood the the DH's position" on this.
Alice Maynard, chair of disability charity Scope, said the review was "urgently needed" if the government was to deliver on its pledge of equality for disabled people by 2025.
She added: “We are particularly pleased that the commission has highlighted ordinary residence rules and eligibility for services as key areas that need clarifying. The current framework is unfairly and inconsistently applied across the country and we would like to see this changed so that disabled people are able to access the services they need and have the same freedom in their choice of home location as non-disabled people.”
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