The Care Act came into force on 1st April, meaning huge changes to the way people plan and pay for their care and support. By simplifying all previous laws, the Act is intended to give a clearer steer on financial arrangements, better information and advice, enhanced support for carers, and a greater choice of services.
Person-centred approach and more control
The Care Act is a huge step away from the traditional system where an assessor looks at ‘needs’ and centres their decision on what people lack, can’t afford, or do for themselves. Now, focus will be placed on the strengths of people who need care, how a person leads their life, and how best they can be supported to live as independently as possible. This also means that people who use social care will have control of the money, ensuring that any amount spent on their care is tailored to them.
In addition, for the first time, this new law will put carers on the same page as the people they look after. Now, they will be able to have an assessment for their eligibility for council support based on their own needs, and not just the needs of the person they care for.
Those eligible will have a tailored support plan and control over how they receive any financial backing. Carers who do not qualify will still be able to obtain advice about other support services available in the local area.
Budgets and payments
The deferred payment scheme – another change that many people have welcomed – allows people to use the value of their home to pay for their residential care costs, without having to take on the stress of selling their home right away. Instead, the council pays for the care home bills until the person is ready to sell their house.
What’s more, from next year there will also be a new cap on care costs, meaning no one will have to pay more than £72,000 in their lifetime. The amount the council will contribute towards someone’s care costs will still be based on their income and assets, but the threshold will be increased, allowing more people to qualify for financial help until they reach the limit.
Good news all around… but?
Although Ministers have set aside £470 million to cover initial costs of the system, many, including the councils themselves, still fear that this won’t be enough.
On the same day as the Act came into play, the Care and Support Alliance (CSA), a coalition of more than 80 charities, warned that an estimated £4.3 billion social care funding shortage by the end of the decade would leave thousands of disabled and older people at risk of losing out on vital help.
The Alzheimer’s Society also warned that ‘without sustainable funding the most significant piece of social care legislation for decades is at risk of becoming a wasted opportunity.’
The Care Act has potential, but it is still only the beginning. It will be interesting to follow, and to see the impact that it will have on those receiving and providing the care, especially in the lead up to and after the General Election.
Whilst no one can predict what will happen in the General Election on 7th May, what is certain is that social care is and will always be a significant issue impacting all, and that won’t change. Whoever comes to power will have the tough task of ensuring that the budding potential of the Care Act is matched with the appropriate funding. After all, it has taken a long time to get to this place. If local authorities and providers are unable to implement the new system effectively, it will only lead to disappointment and frustration.