Three councils’ hopes of receiving additional Care Act funding will hinge on the outcome of a government-commissioned review.
The Department of Health has agreed to fund research into the impact of the new national eligibility threshold on West Berkshire, Wokingham and Northumberland councils. These were the only three local authorities in England who operated the highest ‘critical’ threshold for care under the Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) system of determining eligibility. On 1 April FACS was replaced by the national eligibility threshold brought in by the Care Act.
The Care Act is a key topic at this year’s Community Care Live, the free event for registered social workers.
The DH agreed to commission the research following a legal challenge by West Berkshire and Wokingham councils. The two authorities argued that the allocations received from the government to implement the Act were insufficient to cover the costs of making care available to substantially more people.
In July, the High Court ruled that the councils’ legal claim could go forward to judicial review. This prompted the DH to move to quash the legal challenge. Keen to avoid the case reaching a full hearing, which would bring judicial scrutiny of the method used by government to determine Care Act funding allocations, the government agreed to pay the councils’ legal costs and commission research into the impact of the national eligibility threshold.
In a joint statement, Wokingham and West Berkshire councils and the Department of Health said: “The research will start shortly and conclude by the end of November. This will inform the decision ministers have to make on whether to provide additional funding to councils who previously set their criteria at “critical”. We expect the whole process to be completed by the end of the year.”
The DH told Community Care it had also commissioned a separate study analysing the broader impact of the Care Act across all councils since April 2015. Research for the study was carried out in June and July, with 38 councils volunteering to take part. The results will be published shortly, officials said.