Councils face "deluge" of disputes from draft care reforms: MPs and peers PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 12:14

Local authorities could face a “deluge” of disputes and legal challenges as a result of the Government’s reforms in the Draft Care & Support Bill, MPs and peers have warned.

In a report, the Joint Committee on the Draft Care & Support Bill said: “The introduction of a capped cost scheme, which will result in many more people being assessed and entitled to a personal budget, is likely to lead to an increase in disputes and legal challenges.

“We are not confident that ministers have yet fully thought through the implications for local authorities of these changes. In particular we believe that the arrangements for redress and complaints resolution must be reviewed to ensure that they are fit for purpose.”

The report called for independent resolution of disputes over decisions about care and support – “and costs that count towards the cap”­ – through a Care and Support Tribunal.

The joint committee also called for:

  • A national campaign to raise awareness of what the national care and support offer is, how people can plan and prepare for their own care needs, and what rights they have to care and support.
  • Information and advice for all (including self funders) about support, care planning and housing options.
  • A new power to mandate joint budgets and commissioning across health, care and housing, “such as support for the frail elderly, making it simpler for NHS and local councils to pool budgets”.
  • Fast-tracking of care and support assessments for terminally-ill people.
  • An end to ‘contracting by the minute’ whereby care workers "sometimes spend just fifteen minutes with the person being cared for".
  • New legal rights for young carers “to protect them from inappropriate caring responsibilities and ensure they get the support they need”.
  • An obligation on the Secretary of State to take into account the draft Bill’s well-being principle when designing and setting a national eligibility threshold.
  • Stronger measures on safeguarding, “including explicit responsibilities for local authorities to prevent the abuse and neglect”.
  • Greater clarity on the boundary between NHS continuing care which is free and means-tested social care, which is not. The current wording of the Bill was likely to lead to the unintended consequence that more people in residential care would fall into the means-tested system, the committee said.
  • A statutory duty of candour providing stronger protection for recipients of care or support services. This echoes the duty recently called for by Robert Francis QC in his report into failings at Mid Staffordshire hospital.

The committee meanwhile warned that restricting support and care to those with the highest levels of need would become “entirely self-defeating, because it shunts costs into acute NHS care and undermines interventions to prevent and postpone the need for formal care and support”.

Paul Burstow MP, chair of the joint committee, said: "We need care and support to be more focused on prevention and more joined up with health and housing. There is much in the government’s draft Bill to welcome; it cuts through a complex web of arcane legislation that people struggle with. But there is room for improvement.

“The government must take stock of its funding for adult care and support and think seriously about whether the transformation we all want to see can truly be delivered without greater resources.”

Burstow added: “There is a growing imperative to join-up services so they fit around people's lives and make the best use of resources. The whole system must shift its emphasis away from crises and towards prevention and early intervention. The draft Bill helps, but we believe it could do more."

A copy of the report can be viewed here


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