Ladyman seeks to place social care assessment in independent hands

    An independent assessment service for social care is to be explored
    in the government’s consultation on the future of adult
    services, community care minister Stephen Ladyman has said,
    writes Amy Taylor.

    In an exclusive interview with Community Care, Ladyman said he saw
    “the problem” as councils being both the gatekeepers to
    services through assessments and controllers of the purse
    strings.

    “Although most councils do it diligently – and I am
    sure most social workers do – I have no doubt they often feel
    constrained by the budget that is available rather than by actually
    identifying properly what your care needs are,” he said.

    However, he recognised that an independent assessment service would
    have big challenges associated with it as “an infinite pot of
    money” was not available.

    John Dixon, social services director at West Sussex, who is doing
    work on the government’s “vision” for the future
    of social care for the Association of Directors of Social Services,
    said an independent assessment service could send budgets
    “through the roof”. This would result in either the
    government having to meet the bill or allow council tax to be
    uncapped, he added.

    Dwayne Johnson, the ADSS lead on the single assessment process for
    older people, said there was no evidence that, where assessments
    were carried out by independent bodies, as occurs in some
    children’s services, there had been improvements in
    delivery.

    Ladyman added that the government also wanted a social care system
    in the future where partners, such as councils and the NHS, paid
    different parts of the bills.

    He went on to propose an alternative system to direct payments. 
    Clients would have a personal account detailing the budget and
    would be consulted on how it is spent, even if the service was
    provided by the council.

    Frances Haslar, chief executive of the National Centre for
    Independent Living, said: “A system of individualised
    budgets, made explicit to the user, with users getting a say in how
    they are spent, is a helpful and potentially empowering
    idea.”

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