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The Care Act

The new Care Act (2014) came into effect in April 2015. The Act is a complete overhaul of previous legislation and changes the way care and support is provided for adults and carers throughout the UK. The Act provides standard eligibility criteria for care and support services which applies nationally.

The Care Act focuses on enabling people to have choice and control of their own care and support. The Act takes into account the impact on the whole family not just the individual and to work in a preventative way with people.

The focus in this updated document is mainly surrounding the funding of care and the level of assistance required by local authorities to individuals accessing social care services.

It is the single biggest change to adult social care in 60 years. It aims to simplify the existing law and make it simpler for people to understand how the system works, so they can quickly and easily get to the care and support they need.

Outline of areas the Care Act covers:

Responsibilities of local authorities - Local authorities play a big role in people looking for care and support services in their area, they will have to provide advice and information about care and support in the local area. The aim of this is to help people understand exactly what care and funding options are available and how they can access these services.

Information local authorities must provide:

  • Types of care and support available.
  • The process people have to go through to receive care and support.
  • Where people find independent financial advice about care and support and help them to access it.
  • Have access to providers offering a choice of appropriate services.
  • How to raise safeguarding concerns.

Carers - Carers, for the first time will be recognised in law, in the same way as those they care for.

For too long, many carers have felt their roles have been undervalued and they have a lack of support. Carers now have the opportunity to show how much they are valued as expert partners in care.

Local authorities will assess a carer’s needs for support, if the carer appears to have such needs. It will also consider the aspect of caring on the carer. After an assessment, the local authority will decide whether a carer is eligible for support.

Benefits for carers:

  • More responsibility and control over how support is provided.
  • Carers will receive a personal budget if eligible for support.
  • Work with local authority to agree a support plan.

Safeguarding - Adult safeguarding is working with adults with care and support needs to keep them safe from abuse or neglect. It is a key responsibility of local authorities.

The Act requires local authorities to make enquires, or ask others to make enquiries, when they think an adult with care and support needs may be at risk of abuse or neglect in their area and to find out what, if any, action may be needed. This applies whether or not the authority is actually providing any care and support services to that adult.

Local authorities are also required to set up a Safeguarding Adults Board (SAB) in their area.

  • Include the local authority, the NHS and the police, who should meet regularly to discuss and act upon local safeguarding issues.
  • Develop shared plans for safeguarding, working with local people to decide how best to protect adults in vulnerable situations.
  • Publish this safeguarding plan and report to the public annually on its progress, so that different organisations can make sure they are working together in the best way.

The big challenge is bringing together the huge number of organisations involved in keeping people safe, while making sure that information related to abuse or neglect is shared between everyone involved and the SAB.

Charging and financial assessments - The Care Act reforms aim to give everyone peace of mind that they will be protected from high care costs by means of a cap on the amount they will have to pay towards their eligible care and support. There will also be an extension to means-tested financial support which will work in conjunction with the cap to ensure that people retain more of their assets, and that more people will receive help with the costs of their care.

These changes to charging policies are being implemented to make it clearer and more consistent in the way people are assessed and what they will be asked to pay for their care and support - however, not all types of care and support involve a cost for the person -  for example reablement services or equipment and minor adaptations to the home.

People will only be asked to pay what they can afford. Sometimes the person will pay the full cost and sometimes the cost will be shared between the person and their local authority. To decide what is affordable for an individual, the local authority will carry out a financial assessment.

The cap on care costs has been deferred from April 2016 until April 2020 - and the amount you pay for care if you are over 65 is being capped at £72,000. The cap also applies to younger people with disabilities over the age of 25.

To be eligible, you first need to be assessed by your council as having very high needs. Whether care is provided in your home or in a residential home, only the rate set by the council will count towards the cap.

You will still be responsible for food and accomodation in a care home when you hit the cap. A flat rate of £230 a week is proposed.

Everyone will have a Care Account that will be held by the local authority to record their progress towards the cap. It will set out the rate at which a person is progressing and how much they have accrued towards the total. Local authorities will send statements at least annually.

For a full list of all the changes and to read the all the factsheets, visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-2014-part-1-factsheets

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