The first part of the Care Act was introduced in April 2015 and was heralded as the biggest change to social care since the introduction of the welfare state. But has it really made any difference and what do the recent changes mean for you?
According to a report published by the National Audit Office in August 2015 the biggest change seems to be even more pressure on local Social Services as they face meeting new legal duties with ever decreasing budgets.
One of the major areas of concern is the fact that Local Authorities do not really know how many people are actually likely to need their services and support.
Local Authorities in fact, are currently only paying for individual packages of care for adults who are assessed as having high needs and/or limited means. The majority of people pay privately for their care, whether that be in their own home or in a Care Home.
Local Authorities have admitted that they were concerned that they did not have accurate figures as to the amount of people paying privately for care who are eligible to be assessed and receive services as these people are simply not known to them. Yet the ethos of the Care Act was to ensure individuals are given the best possible chance and support to enable them to maintain independence. If however, Local Authorities do not in fact know how many people are likely to need this support, how can they plan accordingly particularly when they already face enormous financial pressures?
So is it a case that the real impact of the Care Act will be more bust that boom?
Despite the pressure on Local Authorities, the Care Act expects Social Services to be available to play an active part when someone needs care. Before the Act was introduced, if families had savings above the Social Services threshold, currently £23,250, they usually would organise their own package of care without any support from Social Services.
The Care Act now allows for people, regardless of their means, to request Social Services to arrange their care, whether that be at home or in the community and this could make a real difference financially.
People are often unaware that there is a huge difference between what a Care Home will charge if someone is paying privately rather than if someone was funded by Social Services – sometimes as much as £500 – 600 a week. A Social Worker should be able to help you identify Care Homes which will be affordable to you. This is particularly important if your savings are only just above Social Services threshold and therefore will need funding assistance soon after you move into Care. Your Social Worker may be able to help negotiate a better weekly rate for you and provide you with reassurance that when your money runs out you will be able to stay in the same Home as they will accept Social Services funding.
Many families, who have not had support from a Social Worker when originally moving into care, are shocked to discover when their money runs out that Social Services will not continue to fund the placement. In these circumstances families are faced with the daunting prospect of either moving their loved one or being asked to contribute significantly towards the fees – known as a third party top up. By requesting a Social Worker to help arrange the care at the beginning, families should then have a better idea as to what lies ahead and ideally make the right choices.
Despite a promise to introduce the Care Cap in April 2016 many families and support groups were dismayed to learn the introduction of the Care Cap will now be delayed until 2020. The proposals intended to limit the amount an individual can expect to pay for care and the delay will result in thousands of people paying more for their care. However the Care Act did introduce other benefits and we would still always advise families to request an assessment by Social Services when they believe they may need a package of support – a proper assessment at the beginning can ensure families know what support and options are available and, crucially, how much it is going to cost!
If you have a query regarding the legal aspects of care, please call our specialist team on 01926 491181 for free initial advice.