Coping with the care cap

A sponsored feature by Liquidlogic

An older woman wearing a cap

By Chris Sweeney, adult social care lead, Liquidlogic

While the Health and Care Bill goes through Parliament, social care is preparing for the changes it will bring – as part of wider government reforms – to financial assessment and funding regulations. In particular, this includes the introduction of a cap on what self-funders must pay towards their care before they become eligible for state-funded care.

It is going to be a significant challenge to address the changes. The government’s impact assessment estimates that the introduction of the cap and the raising of the upper capital limit, from £23,250 to £100,000, will require councils to carry out an additional almost 300,000 social care assessments and reviews in 2024-25. This will be as a result of people requesting to open a care account to meter their progress to the cap, and seeking local authority funding for their care under the raised capital limit.

There will be a whole cohort of people coming into the system, and requiring needs and financial assessments, who local authorities previously had no sight of. This also is not a one-time event; ongoing reviews will be required in line with Care Act guidance to determine whether somebody’s financial or personal circumstances have changed and whether this impacts on how they meter towards their care cap.

Thrown into the mix are potential barriers with funding and resourcing. Even if there is new money to support the reform, an increased number of assessments will require people to do them, and recruiting and retaining qualified people has its own challenges.

How the changes translate into practice

The latest guidance has stated that local authorities will have responsibility for the creation, management and monitoring of care accounts, with accounts being the record of someone’s expenditure that is eligible to count towards their care cap.

It is possible that, in a subsequent phase, there could be a national system for care accounts, but even if there were, it would probably hold a record of what local authorities have done in assessing and setting up care accounts, rather than replacing local systems.

T-minus twelve months

Although it is all preliminary thinking until the bill is passed, confirming how the reforms will be implemented, we do need to prepare for it now. If the published timetable of October 2023 is adhered to, that only leaves 18 months before the changes come into force fully. In reality, the sector has just twelve months to prepare when considering that the Department of Health and Social Care has said that local authorities should conduct needs and financial assessments of self-funders (newly captured for the means test or seeking to access the cap), where appropriate, from April 2023 onwards.

We are already engaging local authorities following a focus group at the beginning of March, which had good participation.

Liquidlogic and finance solution provider Oxford Computer Consultants have been working together on this challenge and have developed proposals on technology to address the changes and ease the burden. This will include tools to enable elements of this activity to happen online with a degree of automation, whilst ensuring that adequate checks and auditing are in place.

Our focus is on two key areas: firstly, using our solutions to record the care account details, and secondly to assist local authorities in coping with demand.

We have begun to plan the changes required to the Liquidlogic Adults’ Social Care System for the care account and also to cater for the adjustments in the upper capital limit.

We are also working on solutions to enable reporting functionality so that services can forecast the approaching impact of people reaching their cap.

Coping with demand

We’ve had discussions with many of our customers already about how services will manage the significant increase in the number of assessments that local authorities will need to conduct.

We plan to enhance our online offering of self-service portals through the addition of new modules, to make the increase in demand more manageable for local authorities. This will include:

  • The introduction of a module for supported self-assessments as part of care account applications, with local authorities having the ability to set locally configured rules around risk management, sampling and monitoring to audit and oversee self-service activity to ease the burden on councils without increasing risk.
  • Some local authorities looking at the feasibility of partners, providers and trusted assessors undertaking some of this work on their behalf. While we have existing portals allowing the delegation of forms to third parties, we are discussing with customers the possibility of creating a module to allow the trusted assessors to play a greater role in the progression of cases, with the local authority being alerted if required.
  • Addressing the challenge of portability. Something that often goes unsaid is the fact that people move around. When they move from one authority area to another, such as to residential accommodation closer to relatives, they will need their care accounts to move with them. Social care case management providers will need to enhance APIs to exchange cases between systems, so that the care account can move seamlessly and reduce the burden on the destination local authority by having assessment and review details at their fingertips at the point of transfer. Additionally, this will benefit the adult as there isn’t the need to cover ground the previous authority has already been over.

A joint challenge

For better or worse, the reform include some of the biggest changes in adult social care for a number of years. This is a joint challenge for local authority services and their IT providers, as IT will play a big role in making this new demand more manageable. Our work on this has already begun, despite the political uncertainty. Unfortunately, there is no time to waste.

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