Care bill ‘must provide support plans for all to end gatekeeping’

Draft Care and Support Bill must provide people with an entitlement to support planning, regardless of eligibility for formal care, to truly shift system towards prevention, say sector leaders.

Government law reforms will not achieve their aim of replacing care management with a prevention-based system unless they provide people with an entitlement to support planning regardless of eligibility for care.

That was the message from a group of sector bodies in a paper designed to influence the Draft Care and Support Bill – the government’s attempt to modernise the law and reform the system so that it promotes well-being for all rather than rationing support to those with high needs. A committee of MPs and peers has just started scrutinising the draft bill, and will hold its first evidence session tomorrow.

The paper argues that people who appear to need support should have an entitlement to support planning prior to needs assessment, to help them maintain their independence and achieve their goals. This would reverse the current position where support planning is typically reserved for people with the highest needs who have been deemed eligible in an assessment, which the paper said the draft bill would not substantially change.

The report has been produced by a coalition of bodies and inviduals involved in championing personalisation: self-directed support charity In Control; Shared Lives Plus; Community Catalysts; Inclusion North; Inclusive Neighbourhoods; Partners in Policymaking, and Barnsley Council director of adult services Martin Farran.

Similar to the current system, the draft bill places a duty on councils to assess people who appear that they may need care and support. It would seek to reshape the system towards prevention by introducing new duties on councils to provide information and advice and preventive services, and to provide people found ineligible for care following an assessment with advice on how to meet their needs or prevent the development of future needs.

However this week’s paper said the draft bill, as stands, would “replicate the current system’s tendency to shift resources away from prevention and into increasingly rationed and stigmatising crisis responses”, unless it provided people with an entitlement to help with support planning, prior to assessment, and a portable written plan identifying support options.

This would enable people to explore how they could use their informal networks and supports to maintain their independence and achieve their goals; an entitlement to a formal assessment would be retained, but would most likely focused on people with higher needs that could not be met through informal support. The report said support planning could be carried out by council social workers or commissioned from other organisations, such as user-led organisations.

The report also suggested replacing “needs assessments” with “impact assessments”, designed to assess how far an individuals’ imapirments and social circumstances affected their ability to live safe, active lives, to reduce stigma and focus the assessment process on outcomes. It also said that people undergoing assessments should have a right to be supported by an advocate.

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