Practice Note: The Government's view of reform of adult social care

Sunday 19 September 2010

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On the 16 September 2010 the Department of Health, on behalf of the Government, responded to the Law Commission’s consultation paper “Adult Social Care” consultation paper 192 (click here to access the consultation paper). The Government stated, in addition to the response, the following:

“The Government therefore agrees with the Law Commission that the legislative framework for social care is outdated and needs modernising. The current piecemeal state of the law leads to confusion and inefficiencies for users, carers and professionals. Trying to understand and use complex and outdated law takes longer and leads to uncertain outcomes…..”

“Alongside the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support, the Government sees reform of the law underpinning adult social care as a key component towards a new and sustainable settlement for the system….”

“We want a situation where people are empowered to make decisions and take responsibility for their own health and well-being. Individuals need a sense of what they can expect the state to provide in certain circumstances and how they might go about getting the support they need. The system must support and encourage people to make choices and in taking control of their lives. Professionals need to work in collaboration with each other and the individual to get the best possible outcomes.

There must also be a clear recognition that social care continues to have a role in helping people when they may be at risk or incapable of making decisions.

However, the current system and legal framework is largely based on a time when policy makers and others viewed users of social care as unfortunate, passive recipients of “care”. People were able to access a limited range of services, services that were “chosen” for them by the professionals and designed without them by providers. That can no longer be the case. Expectations have changed and the social care system needs a legal framework that promotes personalised care, increases choice and control and can be used and understood by those that need to access support. This is about doing things with people, not for, or to, them.

Although this document sets out the Government’s response to the consultation questions at this stage, the Government will need to look closely at how the Law Commission’s final recommendations are implemented. Any legislation to take forward reform in this area following the Law Commission’s final report will need to be set in the wider policy context. In particular, this will include the recommendations of the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support, but also the Government’s commitment to greater local flexibilities and the localism agenda.

Through the Coalition Programme, the Government is committed to promoting decentralisation; and one of the key strands of this work will be removing barriers. This also means supporting local authorities to deliver vital front line services in a way that suits their local needs by seeking to impose fewer duties on them…..”

The introduction to the response concluded as follows:

“We will continue to work closely with the Law Commission as it develops its proposals, in particular where new policy approaches being considered within Government would have an impact on the legal framework. We are grateful that the Law Commission has agreed to bring forward its timetable in order for us to be in a position to make an early start in drafting legislation.

We have an unparalleled opportunity to bring coherence and transparency into the social care system and the law that governs it. We look forward to working with the Law Commission to support that endeavour.”

The full response can be read by click onto the following link. Response by the Government.

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