The Care Act – an update
The Care Act came into force last April, so it has been nearly a year since the first parts of it were implemented nationwide. Other parts of the Care Act, most notably the care cap of £72,000, were originally due to be introduced next month, however these have been pushed back to April 2020.
The key elements of the Care Act included the right to a free needs assessment from your local council, even if it is likely you will need to pay for your own care. The council should help you to find the right care and support services and how to pay for them if you don’t qualify for financial help, to ensure that your needs are being met. The council can also arrange care for you, even if you are paying for it, and they should only charge you the same as someone whose care they are funding.
Another part of the Care Act is the right to request a Personal Budget if your care is funded, if you don’t already get one. A report from the National Audit Office (NAO) found that 500,000 people received social care funding received a Personal Budget in 2014-2015, with that number set to increase as the Care Act makes them mandatory. The report shows that some councils have been struggling to offer this “personalised commissioning” as they are under pressure to cut costs. 120,000 service users who do receive direct payments, employ their own paid carer to supply their care and support services, and this is often a cheaper option than traditional homecare agencies. In general, however, for councils to offer a personalised service to its users, costs are increased.
This need to reduce spending within local authorities is making it hard for some to comply with the Care Act guidance. An article on the Community Care website, suggests that some councils are reducing staff numbers and cutting assessments to lower their costs, which makes it difficult to deliver on their Care Act requirements.
Another part of the Care Act that is being hindered by the need to make cuts, is a council’s duty to ensure that people have access to services to prevent, reduce or delay the need for care and support. This is supposed to ensure prolonged independence for people. However, a report in Public Sector Executive found, via a Freedom of Information request, that some councils are providing this information online to meet the requirements of the Act, even though many older people do not use the internet.
So, one year on, the Care Act is in place, but it appears to be placing new pressures on councils who are being tasked with providing a national level of assessment and services, while also being forced to reduce spending and cut costs.
Our website has lots of advice and information for Service Users on care and support, and the options available.