Government bids for better access to services

The government’s long awaited Fair Access to Care Services
consultation was published last week in an effort to improve the
availability of community and social services.

The draft guidance recommends that councils grade eligibility
criteria into four bands of need: critical, substantial, moderate,
and low.

It states: “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 that 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

Local authorities, it recommends, should consult service users,
carers and appropriate local agencies about their criteria and then
publish them in “Better Care, Higher Standards” charters.

Once an individual is eligible for care services, the
consultation says councils should record and develop a care plan.
Included in this should be a note of the client’s assessed needs
and associated risks, the preferred outcomes of service provision,
details of the service to be provided, and a review date.

From April 2002, the document recommends councils review the
circumstances of all individuals receiving care services, provided
or commissioned by the council or purchased with direct payments.
All service users should have a review completed by March 2003.

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.

“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,” she said.

Peter Beresford, chairperson of national user organisation
Shaping Our Lives, told Community Care: “It is especially
helpful that the eligibility criteria are not narrowly medically
defined but also highlight the possibility of supporting people’s
capacity to live independently.”

Association of Directors of Social Services president Moira Gibb
said it was essential councils took resources into consideration
when looking at their criteria for services. She said: “This does
not remove the fact that councils have limited resources and we
know there is greater need than we can respond to.”

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

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