The Care Act 2014 brings the law related to social care together in one place, modernising or updating it where necessary. As we saw in the last article, it sets out what councils have to do if they know that someone is an unpaid carer and needs support.
Now let’s take a quick look at the assessment for those who are being cared for. The Act tells councils what they must do if someone has care needs and needs support at home or in a care home.
Previously, if you had money to pay for your own care, the Local Authority could leave you to fend for yourself. This was not always the case and in Cumbria I found our local Social Services helpful when we were trying to arrange services for our ‘self funders’ as well as those that the Local Authority were responsible for. From this April, you have the right to ask the Local Authority to assess your needs regardless of your finances and to arrange services for you, (although not care home places until next year).
This will now be called a ‘needs assessment’ instead of a ‘community care assessment’ and as the eligibility criteria are changing, a person’s care plan may change when they are re-assessed, or when they ask for a review. The needs assessment will be subject to new national eligibility criteria which introduce a minimum threshold. Put simply, if the person being cared for meets this threshold, they will have eligible needs. Even better news is that the new criteria look less strict and so many more people could be eligible for care and support. This should also make assessments more uniform around the country and less like a ‘postcode lottery’, although local authorities may still opt to cover more needs than the law requires.
The Care Act introduces a general (very human) duty on local authorities to consider a person’s wellbeing, which is widely defined, when making decisions about them or planning services.
The wellbeing principles are in turn also part of the eligibility criteria. If the impact of a disabled person's eligible needs on their wellbeing is significant then the eligibility criteria will be met.
The needs assessment will then be the gateway to the financial assessment, after which the local authority will have to agree with them which of their eligible needs they will meet and how.
We will look at the financial position in the next Law Talk in two weeks time.