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James Castro-Edwards

Counsel, Arnold & Porter

Disjointed no longer

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Disjointed no longer

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Whether your client is based in the Isle of Wight or Carlisle, the Care Act will ensure that their needs are equally met, says James Ward

Little has been written or reported about the arrival of the Care Act 2014, even though comprehensive guidance on the Act was issued in October last year. April 2015 subsequently saw the Act come into force, heralding the first major change in social care in England for a generation.

These changes will see a more structured approach to how care is delivered, which will impact on carers, those in care, the nursing profession, businesses who meet care needs and, local councils, among others.

The Act is designed to bring a number of sections of social care law together, as well as updating the law where necessary. With this in mind, any practitioner who regularly advises elderly clients needs to be aware of the act and have reviewed the statutory guidance, which runs to 500 pages.

A unified code

In my view, one of the most important aspects of the Act is that it codifies much of the fragmented law surrounding care, and the differences often encountered between councils. For instance, it both changes and brings together the rules about who qualifies for the support from their local authority, and the rules about charging for care.

Alongside this, it introduces the 'wellbeing principle', which local authorities must adhere to when exercising their responsibilities under the Act. This is a broad duty that covers personal dignity, physical and mental health, emotional, social and economic wellbeing, through to protection from abuse and neglect and, domestic family and personal relationships.

It should be applied so that adults in need of care have their wishes considered and where possible, receive bespoke care to match their needs.

It also states that adults must be assessed on the appearance of need, regardless of what the local authority thinks is the level of their need and, regardless of their financial resources.
In turn it gives adults, from April
2016 onwards, a new right to appeal
a decision about their care and for it
to be independently investigated.

Care cap

The more eagerly anticipated sections of the Act, however, revolve around the introduction of a new financial cap on care, and the introduction of assistance for carers. The level of the financial cap has just finished consultation and will not be introduced until April 2016.

There is still some work to be done on exactly how all of these changes will affect adults in care, however it will be based on an assessment of an individual's needs and their financial resources.

It will be important for everybody to have an assessment by the local authority, as once the care cap threshold (£72,000) has been reached, they will be entitled to local authority funding based on their needs, even if this will not cover all of the residential costs of a private care home.

When the final law on this is published, it will warrant a thorough review and case study analysis to see how it affects your clients, no matter how wealthy they are.

Carer's rights

In the meantime, the other eagerly anticipated change that is now in effect is the support for carers. Carers will be entitled to an assessment of their needs, and if they are eligible, they will be entitled to support.

This is a change to the existing
law, which gave local authorities the power to provide for carers, but had
no compulsory requirement.

The Act also means that for the first time, local authorities will be required to meet the carer's eligible needs directly.
As this will be based on a national eligibility criteria, the standard will be the same across the country.

Embrace universality

It is likely that the Care Act will take a little time to bed in among local authorities, not helped by the two stage introduction, with financial caps being introduced next April.

However what is important for practitioners to note is that the Act brings about a unified set of rules that will help their clients, whether they are based in the Isle of Wight or Carlisle. 

James Ward is a partner and head of the private client services at Seddons

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