Withdrawal of Cap on Care Fees is Only Part of a New Way of Caring

15/10/2015

Government plans to introduce a £72,000 cap on paying for care fees have been shelved amid concerns over the perilous state of council social care budgets. The new payment system, which was due to come into force in April 2016, has now been put back to 2020.

The idea behind the cap was that once a person had spent £72,000 on their care, the state would step in. The problem is that without a substantially funded council care system, pressure on local authorities will become financially crippling.

The government had hoped the insurance sector would seize the opportunity by offering products, but this hasn’t happened. With local authorities already struggling to cope with black holes in their budgets, parliament has pulled the plug while it examines other options for paying for care.

Currently, the elderly and younger adults with disabilities have to pay for their care; whether that's round-the-clock help in a care home or support with tasks such as washing and dressing in their own home. Anyone with less than £23,250 in savings and, in some cases, the value of a home receives help toward their care costs. This, however, doesn’t include living costs such as food, bills and accommodation, for which people will still be liable to the tune of £230 a week.

But it’s not all about money. Hailed as the solution to demystifying outdated and complex legislation, the revised Care Act seeks to cut through red tape to make the process of getting help with care much more transparent and accessible.

Aside from the monetary aspect, the other four pillars to the Act, which were introduced in April this year, are far more central to the essence of what the Act aims to achieve and these haven’t been blocked. Firstly, the government has adopted the Socrates approach; prevention is better than a cure. Local authorities will be required to provide services aimed at maintaining people’s health to reduce or delay the need for care or support in the first place.

Clearer information and fairer access to care is another key ingredient to the new changes. Local authorities will now have a duty to ensure care and support is available to everyone when they need it. In cases where people are unable to understand the care system, assistance must be provided.

The changes also incorporate a common system across the country. Previously, access to care has been a lottery with each local authority being able to apply its own financial eligibility thresholds. The consequence of this has resulted in varying levels of entitlement depending on where people live.

Under the new rules, anyone, including carers, who need support, will receive an assessment. The individual’s physical, mental, emotional wellbeing and any needs already being met by a carer, must be taken into consideration, so that support is built around their needs and wants and how they can be best cared for, along with a commitment to regularly review it. On completion of the assessment, the local authority can refer to the nationally aligned threshold to determine whether the individual has eligible needs.

Additionally, all local authorities will be required to adopt a joined up approach to social care by collaborating with other public bodies, such as health and housing, as well as external organisations so that people don’t ‘slip through the cracks’. This vision also extends to ensuring a seamless transition for young people to move into adult social care services.

Finally, safeguarding forms the final piece of the jigsaw. The new statuary framework aims to protect adults from neglect and abuse and stipulates that there should be a diverse range of high quality care services for people to choose from. If a care services provider fails, local authorities have a duty to intervene to ensure a person is not left without care.

There is no doubt the reforms to the Care Act have been designed to promote good practice by personalising care to the individual rather than focussing on the masses. The essence of the changes is to ensure wellbeing and quality of life, so people shouldn’t get hung up on the financial cap. Unfortunately, it’s what most believe the Care Act to be about, but this element only forms a small part of the changes. Whereas previously it’s tended to be a one size fits all approach, the new legislation will fundamentally change the way local authorities deal with caring for people.

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