Act to provide carers with new rights and services

What effect will the Carers and Disabled Persons Act 2000 have
when most of its sections come into force on 1 April 2001?

The act is already on the statute
book, but it was only on 14 February this year that the Secretary
of State made an order bringing most of its provisions into force
on 1 April. The act in general terms provides carers with much
needed statutory rights to access assessments and possible
provision of services to support them in their caring roles.

One of the main provisions of the
act is to give a carer (over 16) the right to an assessment if they
are providing a substantial amount of care on a regular basis to a
person (over 18) to whom the local authority would have the power
to provide community care services.

The assessment is of the
carer’s ability to care, but importantly, the local authority
must consider the assessment and then decide (1) whether the carer
has needs in relation to the care provided; (2) whether the local
authority could meet those needs; and (3) if so, whether services
should be provided.

The local authority is given a very
wide discretion as to the services it can provide to a carer, so
long as it will “help the carer care for the person cared for”.

The exception to this is that
services of an intimate nature cannot normally be provided under
this act to the cared for person. New regulations define what
constitutes a service of an intimate nature and includes most
personal care.

As services can sometimes be
provided either through this act or through the NHS and Community
Care Act 1990, the act states that the local authority must decide
under which provision the service is being provided. This is
clearly important for the local authority and the service users to
know who the recipient of the service is, who can be charged, and
who may be entitled to direct payments.

As to charging, the act contains
specific provision for charging carers for services they receive,
on the same basis that community care service users can be charged.
On direct payments, the act contains amendments to the Community
Care (Direct Payments) Act 1996 to allow carers in receipt of
services under the new act to be entitled to be considered for
direct payments in lieu of services.

Next, the act makes provision for a
person with parental responsibility for a disabled child to request
an assessment of his or her ability to care for that child, where
the local authority is satisfied that it could provide services
under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (whether it is assessing
the child and its family for such services or not). The local
authority must then take the assessment into account when deciding
what, if any, services to provide under section 17. Further, on
section 17 of the Children Act 1989, a new section 17a is to be
added, giving the local authorities powers to make direct payments
in lieu of Children Act services, either to a person with parental
authority or to the child him or herself if aged 16 or 17.

Practitioners also need to be aware
that a plethora of guidance comes with the new act. Policy guidance
(which social services departments must comply with other than in
exceptional circumstances) deals with the scope of the act,
assessments, service provision and direct payments. There is also
new practice guidance on the provisions of the act as they affect
carers, young people and direct payments. All guidance is available
on the Department of Health website –


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