Councils urged to improve access to social services

The government has published a consultation document on
improving access to all community services and social services,
writes Anabel Unity Sale.

The draft guidance recommends that councils grade the
eligibility criteria of people’s need into critical;
substantial; moderate; and low bands.

It says: “In determining eligibility criteria, councils should
ensure that those individuals whose needs have immediate and
longer-term critical consequences for their independence, are
prioritised as eligible ahead of those with needs that have
substantial consequences.”

It adds councils will want to take account of their resources,
local expectations and local costs when setting their eligibility
criteria and of any service agreements with other agencies.

Councils should consult service users, carers and appropriate
local agencies about the criteria, and publish details of it in
‘better care, higher standards’ charters.

Once individuals are eligible for services, the consultation
recommends that councils record and develop care plans. These
should include as a minimum a note of the assessed needs and
associated risks; the preferred outcomes of service provision;
details of the service to be provided; and a review date.

From April nest year, the document recommends councils review
the circumstances of all individuals in receipt of social care
services, provided or commissioned by the council or purchased with
direct payments. All service users should have a review by March

Launching the consultation, health minister Jacqui Smith said
councils were being urged to move away from focusing services only
on those in greatest immediate need.

She said: “It is important that preventive action is taken by
local authorities to ensure that people receive a sufficient amount
of help to lessen the risk of situations and problems that may
require emergency intervention.”

The consultation period runs for 12 weeks until mid-October and
final guidance is expected to be issued in the autumn.

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