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Equalities watchdog to hold inquiry into methods of challenging decisions about adult social care

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched an inquiry that will consider the effectiveness of existing methods of challenging local authority decisions about individuals’ entitlements to adult social care or support in England and Wales, including – but not limited to – complaints to local authorities and Ombuds, and judicial review.

The EHRC said a range of organisations had raised concerns that people faced barriers to complaining about or challenging decisions related to their social care.

It said it would look to see if council decisions in England and Wales could be meaningfully challenged if they fell short, and if the existing ways to do so were accessible and effective, including whether high quality advocacy support was available.

The EHRC will also explore:

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  • if people were made aware of their rights to social care and support, and how they could challenge a decision they felt was wrong;
  • whether local councils and other relevant bodies learned from challenges to improve decision-making in future, and
  • whether effective systems were in place to check the quality and consistency of decision-making about people’s access to social care or support.

The inquiry will lead to a number of recommendations for local and national governments as well as other relevant organisations, the EHRC said.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Decisions about social care and support carry crucial equality and human rights implications for people’s lives. They can affect the choice, control and dignity of older people, disabled people and unpaid carers, and their ability to maintain relationships, live independently and participate in their communities.

“We know that the social care system has been under significant pressure and many problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic. With vital decisions about people’s care being made under such pressure, it is essential that there are effective ways to challenge them if people feel they have been left without the support they need.

“That is why we are using our legal powers to launch this inquiry, to help make sure that everyone can live a dignified life and that people can speak up if they feel a decision has left them without the right care.”.

The full inquiry report will be published in 2022. The full terms of reference are available here.

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