Author Archives: Stephen Lowe

A denial of dignity

Older woman with carer

The European Court has ruled on a challenge brought by Elaine McDonald, a user of social care services in Kensington and Chelsea, regarding reductions to her care package which amounted to a denial of dignity. This ruling is the final stage in a series of cases that have included the UK Appeal Court and Supreme Court. Age UK intervened in the Supreme Court case.

At the heart of the dispute is the issue of whether someone who is not incontinent should be expected to wear incontinence pads rather than being assisted to use the toilet at night. Ms McDonald has argued that being required to do this is a breach of her human rights.

UK courts, including the Supreme Court, accepted that Kensington and Chelsea’s decision to remove night time care was unlawful in English law as it was implemented without carrying out a proper reassessment of need. However UK courts have not accepted that this involved a breach of human rights, or that the council acted unlawfully in withdrawing care once (a year after the initial decision) it finally completed an assessment. Continue reading

Tackling the future funding of social care

Age UK has responded to a Department of Health consultation on the future funding of social care. This marks the latest stage in the long march to reform how we pay for care. The ‘Dilnot’ Commission on long term care funding recommended a new system whereby the amount that individuals would be expected to pay towards their care needs would be capped. The government has announced that it will implement a modified version of these recommendations. However there are still many unanswered questions about the new system and concern about its complexity.

The proposals are based on a new national system of eligibility for local authority care. The only spending by an individual that will count towards the 440px_older_carers_handscap is that required to meet needs which fall within these criteria – currently set at ‘substantial’ . If the criteria are too restrictive people might have spent large amounts before their outlay even starts to count towards the cap. Age UK has therefore argued that eligibility for local authority care should include people with what would currently be defined as moderate needs. Continue reading

Joint Committee reports on Draft Care and Support Bill

The Joint Committee on the Draft Care and Support Bill has completed its scrutiny of the draft bill, and published a report and recommendations. The committee is supportive of much of the bill, but suggests that further measures to promote preventative services and early intervention, and to promote integration between local authority social care, housing services and the NHS, could be included.

440px_older_carers_handsThe committee also argues that the government has underestimated the cost of implementing the proposals contained in the bill. In launching the report, the committee’s chair, Paul Burstow, argued that “The government must take stock of its funding for adult care and support and think seriously about whether the transformation we all want to see can truly be delivered without greater resources’. Age UK has similarly called for the government’s forthcoming spending review to make provision for funding a fair and dependable care system.

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Worth waiting for? The Draft Care and Support Bill

As the Law Commission first began work on its review of adult social care in 2008 it seems reasonable to describe the new draft Care and Support Bill, based on the Law Commission’s recommendations, as ‘long awaited’.  So has it been worth waiting for?

Throughout its work the Commission was adamant that it did not intend to reduce the rights of older and disabled people who need care and support.  That the Law Commission has largely achieved its aim does in itself deserve praise, not to mention a sigh of relief that essential rights have not been swept away.

The Law Commission’s recommendations were never intended to be revolutionary. The aim of the exercise was primarily to consolidate existing legislation. This meant both bringing together successive acts of Parliament and proposing a new structure for regulations and guidance issued under the new act. Guidance will also be pulled together into a single code of practice, a huge improvement on the current mass of guidance, good practice guidelines, and guidelines produced by third parties.

There are, however, some dramatic and welcome new proposals in the draft bill;

  • A general duty to promote the wellbeing of service users will become the underlying principle used as a basis for interpreting the rest of the legislation;
  • People who do not meet eligibility criteria will still have rights to advice and information;
  • Carers will, for the first time, have the same rights to services following assessment as care service users;
  • There will be a new national framework for eligibility for care and support (the White Paper also promises a new minimum threshold for eligibility by 2015 although this is not in the draft Bill)
  • There will be improved transition arrangements for service users who move from one local authority to another;
  • Legislation to safeguard adults at risk of abuse.

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