Care Act 2014
The much heralded Care Act 2014 has come into force with promises of significant change to the social care landscape.
The early headlines about the Act revolved around the cap on care costs and the increased thresholds for the financial means tests for eligibility for care. Whilst these are important and likely to present operational challenges for providers, they do not come into effect until April 2016 and the detail about how they are to work is yet to be published.
The Act is a substantial piece of legislation but it contains a number of key themes:
- Care should be centred around the needs of the individual rather than around the services which are available. Previous care legislation focussed on obligations to make certain types of care services available and therefore needs tended to be shaped to fit services rather than the other way around.
- The significant focus on the accessibility of comprehensive information about care and support services available in an area means there is an emphasis on authorities and providers working together. This co-operation ensures existing services are publicised and services are developed to suit the local population.
- There has been considerable criticism in the past that entitlement to care has varied between areas and the Act seeks to bring consistency in a number of ways. There is now a definition of "eligible needs", although it is controversial as in some areas the tests will exclude from care and support people who would have qualified previously.
- Assessment of needs must be carried out by an authority regardless of the individual's finances. Assessment and financial support are different things.
- As well as information about types of care, authorities must provide details about independent financial advice to assist the local population to plan for care and understand how to fund it.
The Act imposes most of its obligations on local authorities, and will change the way they commission services due to the focus on promoting the wellbeing of the individual.
Leaving aside the issues which providers will face when the change in care and support funding is introduced, the most immediate effect on providers is likely to be practical - co-operation, provision of information, embracing integrated care.
However, providers may find they are also at the forefront of educating potential service users, for whom the changes could have a profound impact.