The Government’s Social Care White Paper and White Paper and Draft Care and Support Bill

Part Two: Food for Thought

Having finished my rant about the Government’s lack of backbone to adequately fund social care, here are some of the important points that were raised in the Social Care White Paper and Draft Care and Support Bill.

From 2015 the government will introduce national standards on access to care services.  At the moment each council can set its own criteria, creating a so called postal lottery. National standards will help people to understand what they are entitled to.

New rules will be introduced to make it easier for older people to move around the country, to live for example, nearer to their relatives. Currently they have to undergo new assessments, which results in some losing out. This will give people the flexibility to make the most appropriate choices about where they and their families live.

The Government will offer state loans for care costs and residential fees can be taken from a person’s estate after death. Interest will be charged but the level of interest and whether this will be capped is not known. However this offers  nothing new and local authorities already offer deferred payment schemes without interest.

People will be given access to personal budgets (money given to the person in lieu of services) by 2013 and have a legal right to them by 2015. The government will also invite expressions of interest to pilot direct payments in residential care in the summer of 2012. I was involved in Personal Budget pilots and feel strongly that until alternatives to direct payments are offered universally to older people who are unable to manage direct payments, nothing much will change. Council managed budgets will continue to deceive government statistics into thinking Local authorities have more older people with a personal budget than they actually have.

There will no longer be a requirement for carers to provide regular and substantial care, so any carer with needs could be assessed. The  Government also plans to extend the right to a carers assessment and provide an entitlement to services for the first time. A national minimum eligibility threshold for support for carers will be set  . However the amount of money needed to fund this new entitlement will be dependent on what money is available in the system and we will have another case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’

Local authority can charge for services that they are not under a duty to provide. For example, people who are not eligible for the local authorities help. For these services, local authorities may also charge ‘arrangement’ costs. Up until now, it has only been the services that have been charged for, not the ‘management’ or ‘arrangement’ charge.

The government will be strengthening support within communities. They will introduce a duty on local authorities to commission and provide preventative services and fund or encourage a number of projects to encourage supportive networks of volunteers within communities, including Time Banking which is very good news.

The social care needs of people facing end of life are recognised with a commitment to abolish means testing for people on the end of life care register.  Most people would prefer to die at home but currently less than a quarter are able to do so. We simply cannot afford, in human or cost terms, to continue to allow people to die in hospital against their wishes.

Only time will tell if political will can be turned into reality. If I sound cynical it is because I have found over many years, that the devil is in the detail and the implementation of policies. As people come to terms with an ageing population and the reality of a care system stretched to breaking point, I have faith that ‘the people’ will decide. Let politicians from all parties heed my warning.


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