Care Act training 19 March – the new law on post-16 social care

This is the latest in an occasional series of plugs for events I’m involved in – this time training on the Care Act 2014 which I’m delivering with my colleague Ian Wise QC on 19 March in London. As it’s a plug I’ll keep in brief, aiming to show why we think the new Act merits a day of anyone’s time who is concerned with care and support for disabled young people and adults.

The aim of the new scheme created by the Care Act, according to the first paragraph of its statutory guidance, is to ‘to help people to achieve the outcomes that matter to them in their life’. Mark Harvey, a social work manager and commentator, has described it as ‘a merging of social work practice, values and ethics with statute’ .

In many ways I agree with Mark – for example, the new legal duties on assessment in the Act and regulations are astonishingly prescriptive and avoid leaving disabled people’s rights to guidance which may be interpreted away or simply ignored. This really is the law reflecting the best in social work practice and values.

However there are other areas where I have real concerns – for example:

  • The new eligibility scheme – which I consider should result in more disabled people being eligible for adult social care, but may be (mis)used in practice to restrict eligibility even further than it is at present under ‘Fair Access to Care Services’.
  • The limit on the duty to make direct payments to the amount which it would cost the Local Authority to meet the person’s needs – see chapter 11 of the guidance on personal budgets and chapter 12 on direct payments. The guidance suggests at 11.26 that ‘There may be cases where it is more appropriate to meet needs via directly-provided care and support, rather than by making a direct payment’. This is a worrying restriction on disabled people’s right to choice and control over their care.
  • The new provisions on transition from children’s to adult services, which create three new transition assessment rights and three new duties to continue to provide children’s services post-18 if the new adult social care assessment and planning process has not been completed on time. Is it right that Parliament should legislate for a failed transition process? Does the Act create a perverse incentive for adult social care to fail to engage with transition planning so that the cost of care remains with children’s services?

So as always, the devil will be in the detail. We will address these and many more issues on 19 March – and I hope to blog about some of them over the coming months as well. With the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Care Act 2014 we certainly live in interesting times. What can’t be ignored (but often seems to be) is that these major legislative reforms are being introduced at a time of sweeping cuts. As such it is essential that everyone understands the new rights and entitlements these Acts create so that the good they can do is not lost in austerity.

Please join us on 19 March if you can, and please spread the word to others – disabled people, carers, family and friends, professionals, providers, commissioners, managers and (last but not least) lawyers. We have aimed to keep prices down and are making some free spaces available for disabled people and carers but recognise that not everyone who wants to come can join us – whether for cost or other reasons. As such if you follow the blog I’ll aim to put as much information as the new Act up here as possible before it comes into force on 1 April – and of course after that date as we grapple with implementation.