The start of a new era of social care?

An important year for care
An important year for care

April 1st 2015 is the starting point for a new era in social care in England and Wales.

Most of Part 1 of the much discussed Care Act 2014 comes into force on that date. It is the most wide reaching reform to community care and social support for the past 60 years.

A new statutory principal of individual wellbeing has been enshrined. The duty on local authorities to promote wellbeing for a specific person, whilst enabling them to participate fully in decisions at every stage where possible is a significant shift.

Currently the care and social system operates a perspective of fitting people into the services available – rather than meeting that person’s needs.

In fact, “meeting needs” for care and support has now become a core legal duty for the local authority and has been standardised across England and Wales.

For the first time the local authority will be taking the carer’s needs into account, as well as the main adult’s, and should provide support to them too.

The eligibility criteria for whether an adult should receive care are no longer decided by the local authority’s own rules but is the same across the country. It should provide a level playing field for supporting people that need care, without the postcode lottery that leads to variable support and much difficulty for families.

The new rules also attempt to review the game of “ping pong” that local authorities can currently play when care is urgently required outside of the adult’s normal residence (due to a fall whilst visiting family, for example) – by imposing an obligation to meet those needs irrespective of which local authority ultimately pays the bill.

Regarding the rest of the Act, the rules are still being made. The major change to care fees is the introduction of a maximum cap on care costs an adult pays.

The details should be in place later this year, for commencement in April 2016. The proposed cap of £72,000 will only be in relation to social care costs, after the deduction of daily living costs.

This suggests that the real cap will take at least 5 years, by which time, the adult would actually have paid £137,500 in costs. Not as good as it sounds initially!

If a relative or friend does need care at home or full-time elsewhere, it is a very difficult period. The changes coming into force in a few weeks will hopefully ensure their right to needs being met – with an appropriate recourse if not – will see the landscape brighten for those involved.

Avoiding the necessity of care is the best option. But that’s not always possible. This is a good time to consider care fee planning, by drafting a Will to ensure that the adult’s financial estate is protected to the greatest degree possible.

This article is written for general information only and should not be relied on without specific advice. For further advice, please contact Meg Cooper on 01442 872311.

We are also offering free 30 minute consultations on making a will, lasting powers of attorney and probate on specific dates in March and April. Please contact 01442 872311 or admin@sumtab.co.uk to make an appointment.