Keep up to date with latest legal developments
The Care Act 2014 (the ‘Act’) comes into effect in April 2015 and marks a significant development in the sphere of community care law. It is a welcome overhaul of a confusing and complex field of law which has developed through various pieces of law over the last 60 years.
The Act aims to create a single and focused piece of legislation setting out the rights of individuals and carers to social care support. It not only clarifies the law but places new responsibilities upon local authorities, which have not previously been set out in community care legislation.
There is now a general duty upon local authorities to promote an individual’s wellbeing. Significantly, this is expressly stated to apply to both adults with care and support needs and their carers, acknowledging the needs and support of carers which is sometimes overlooked. The Act provides a broad definition of well being including personal dignity; physical mental health; emotional wellbeing; protection from abuse and neglect; control by an individual over day to day life; participation in work; educational recreation; social economic wellbeing; domestic; family and personal relationships; suitability of living accommodation and an individual’s contribution to society.
Often individuals in need of community care support have needs which have developed over time and which require the support of health and/or other agencies. A timely and seamless support package is essential to ensure that an individual’s needs are met but unfortunately, in practice, this has not always been implemented by different agencies. The Act seeks to address this by promoting a proactive and holistic approach to the delivery of support to individuals by a local authority. Early intervention is promoted with a duty upon local authorities to arrange services to prevent or delay the need of adults and carers for support. Local authorities also have a duty to carry out their responsibilities with a view to ensuring integration of care and support with health related provisions and cooperation with other agencies including other Local Authorities; the Police and Prison Services.
The trigger for a community care assessment under the Act is the same as under the current National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 – community care assessments must be undertaken where it appears that an individual may have needs which require support. The Act specifically states that the duty to conduct an assessment applies regardless of a Local Authority’s view regarding the level of the individual’s needs or the level of the individual’s financial resources. The assessment process seeks to provide a person centred approach and the Act specifically states that an individual should express their wishes and feelings and the process must include an assessment of the outcomes that the adult wishes to achieve in day to day life and whether the provision of care and support could contribute to the achievement of those outcomes.
The Act states that a local authority must involve any person whom the individual wishes to be involved in the assessment. Given that a comprehensive assessment is key to ensuring that the right decision is made in respect of care that is being provided to an adult, it is essential that professionals and individuals who have knowledge of an individual’s needs and care are involved and this specific provision under the Act now provides for this.
The Care Act 2014 specifically makes provision for support planning and personal budgets which have, so far, been set out in guidance rather than legislation. The Act provides a legal responsibility to provide a care and support plan and a legal entitlement to provide an individual with a personal budget. This aims to provide for clearer care planning and choice for individuals regarding the delivery of their care.
The rights of carers are now given a more equal footing to the rights of adults in receipt of community care support. Not only does the general duty to promote wellbeing apply to carers, but the Act also acknowledges the rights of carers and their needs and support with separate provision in relation to carers’ assessments.
Under the Act, local authorities must now provide a service which gives information and advice relating to care and support for adults and carers. This includes information as to how an individual can access independent financial advice on matters relevant to meeting their need for care and support. This, again, is a positive development to assist service users to make the right decisions with regard to their care and support.
The Care Act 2014 is a significant development in the field of community care. It is an overhaul of a complex field of law which will hopefully ensure greater clarity and the promotion of the rights of vulnerable adults and their carers, and more importantly, that such needs are more appropriately and adequately met.