19 Mar 2013

Social care bill ‘could face challenges’

Ministers have not fully thought through the implications of their social care reforms, a hard-hitting report finds.

Social care bill needs improvements, MPs warn (Getty)

The draft care and support bill, designed to create a single law for adult care and support in England, could leave local authorities open to a “deluge of disputes and legal challenges”, a cross-party group of MPs and peers said.

The report says the introduction of a capped care cost scheme “is likely” to lead to an increase in challenges against decisions made by local authorities.

It said: ” The introduction of a capped cost scheme, which will result in many more people being assessed and entitled to a personal budget, is likely to lead to an increase in disputes and legal challenges.

“We are not confident that ministers have yet fully thought through the implications for local authorities of these changes.”

The committee said there should be an “urgent review” of the proposed system for complaints, adding that the government should consider giving a care and support tribunal the responsibility for resolving disputes over decisions about care.

It also questioned whether current funding for adult care and support can deliver the transformation of services set out in the report.

Room for improvement

Former care minister Paul Burstow, chair of the joint committee on the bill, said: “We need care and support to be more focused on prevention and more joined up with health and housing. There is much in the government’s draft bill to welcome – it cuts through a complex web of arcane legislation that people struggle with. But there is room for improvement.

“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.

“There is a growing imperative to join up services so they fit around people’s lives and make the best use of resources. The whole system must shift its emphasis away from crises and towards prevention and early intervention. The draft bill helps, but we believe it could do more.”

The committee also called for stronger measures to safeguard people in care, less focus on care charged by the minute, and warned that without greater integration with health and social housing services, the care and support system would be unsustainable.