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
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
“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
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.”