With more of us living longer, the ability to be able to access the right kind of care for each individual is becoming more important. Currently the law regarding entitlements to care is confusing and complex. It is governed by a number of different Acts of Parliament, some of which are over 60 years old.
The Care Act which will come into force in April this year aims to create a single consistent route to establishing an entitlement to public care and support for all adults with needs for care and support. It also creates the first ever entitlement to support for carers on the same basis.
The Act sets out a new legal duty for an adult’s ‘eligible needs’ to be met by the local authority (in our case Surrey County Council), subject to their financial circumstances.
The Act says that a person will be entitled to have their needs met when:
- The adult has ‘eligible needs’
- The adult is ‘ordinarily resident’ in the local area
and any of the following five situations apply:
- The type of care and support they need is provided free of charge
- The person cannot afford to pay the full cost of their care and support
- The person asks the Local Authority to meet their needs
- The person does not have mental capacity, and has no-one else to arrange care for them
- When the cap on care costs comes into force (expected April 2016) their total care and support costs have exceeded this cap
‘Eligible needs’ might include help to get out of bed, get washed or dressed, help with eating or cooking meals, help with seeing friends or family or help with caring for others.
The Local Authority must help a person to make decisions about how they want their needs to be met and prepare a plan. This will include those people who have adequate financial resources to pay for their care and support, but who lack the confidence to make the arrangements themselves.
Safeguarding – protecting adults from abuse or neglect
Safeguarding is working with adults with care and support needs to keep them safe from abuse or neglect. Although local authorities have been responsible for safeguarding for many years, there has never been a clear set of laws behind this responsibility. The Act will create a legal framework so that key organisations and individuals can agree how they will work together and what roles they must play to keep adults at risk safe.
Safeguarding Adults Boards will be set up in each local authority area. These will include the Local Authority, NHS and Police, who will meet regularly to develop shared plans for safeguarding and work with local people to decide how best to protect adults in vulnerable situations.
Changes in the law for carers
In the Act a carer is a person who helps another person, usually a relative or friend, in their day to day life. This is not the same as someone who provides care professionally, or through a voluntary organisation.
The Act gives local authorities the responsibility to assess a carer’s needs for support. The assessment will consider the things a carer wants to achieve in his or her own day to day life. It must also consider other important issues such as whether the carer is able or willing to carry on caring, whether they work or want to work, and whether they want to study or do more socially.
In most cases local authorities do not charge for providing support for carers in recognition of the valuable contribution they make to their community. However, if the local authority does decide to charge a carer for providing them with support, it must carry out a financial assessment to decide whether the carer can afford to pay. Carers should receive a personal budget and have a right to request that the local authority meets some or all of their needs by giving them a direct payment, which will give them control over how their support is provided.
More information can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-2014-part-1-factsheets There is also an easy to read guide which can be found alongside the factsheets.