Law Commission Report on Adult Social Care

Social care is not the easiest area for the public to understand – though this situation will no doubt change as increasing numbers have to arrange support for older relatives – as touched upon in our Independent Ageing (pdf) report . The Law Commission Report provides an excellent basis on which to make the legislative aspects of social care more consistent and comprehensible.

Much of the document can be viewed as putting existing good practice on a statutory footing. Particularly welcome are recommendations for carers’ assessments which have a long history of confusion and poor performance. A more consistent national approach to care plans will also be helpful – people anywhere in the country ought to have clear documentation setting out the summary of their eligible needs, their care outcomes, their personal budget and financial contribution – instead of receiving repetitive documentation that manages to omit pertinent financial information.

The government is likely to adopt elements of the recommendations, but there will be much further discussion. One of the concerns is that measures will have additional cost implications. For instance, the number of carers’ assessments would rise and services for carers may increase, particularly if a national eligibility framework is established. Similarly, extending direct payments to residential care, while a fair and consistent measure in itself, potentially risks replacing councils’ mass purchasing power with more expensive individual contracts as seen in self-funders.  However, there are counter arguments to these points and, overall, the Commission suggests that many of their conclusions reflect good practice that should be already taking place so should not incur additional cost.

There are other potentially difficult issues. For instance, what are we to make of social services authorities having a duty to provide universal services alongside the statement that it would be expected that only a minority of these would be funded by social care?  A requirement for an NHS representative on safeguarding boards and a duty on the NHS to cooperate are interesting propositions for a future with GP consortia. Just how such NHS-wide responsibilities, easily fulfilled by PCTs, will be worked out is yet another of the unknowns of NHS reforms.

This post is based on a LGiU members briefing written by Christine Heron. Briefings are accessible to all officers and elected members of our member authorities. For more information on joining the Local Government Information Unit please follow this link