Service users to gain right to independent advocacy through Care Bill

Government amendment would provide right to advocacy when a person needed substantial support in understanding information during care management or safeguarding processes and had no one else to support them.

The Care Bill returns to Parliament next week

The Care Bill returns to Parliament next week

Thursday 03 October 2013 22:42

Service users and carers would gain a right to an independent advocate to help them participate in the assessment, support planning or safeguarding process under a government amendment to the Care Bill.

The provision would apply if the person would experience substantial difficulty in understanding, retaining or weighing up relevant information, or in communicating their wishes, and they had no family member or friend to speak up for them.

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The amendment – which will be moved by minister Earl Howe when the bill returns to the House of Lords next week – has been strongly welcomed by advocacy leaders, who have campaigned strongly for such a provision.

Ministers have also accepted strong calls for government policy on adult care to have regard to the duty the bill imposes on councils to promote the well-being of adults in contact with adults’ services. The absence of such a provision had prompted concern that government policy would undermine councils’ ability to promote well-being.

Assessments by specialist practitioners

Through another amendment, government has also accepted calls for the bill to be amended so that ministers can specify that assessments must be carried out by people with specialist expertise in certain circumstances. The lack of such a provision had sparked concerns that, for example, people who were autistic or deafblind would receive assessments from generic practitioners who could not identify their particular needs.

Councils would also face strengthened duties to ensure the quality of services they commission from the independent sector, by having regard to the need to foster a high-quality workforce and for commissioned services to promote well-being.

They would also have a duty – rather than just a power – to assess children who it appears would have a need for care and support on turning 18, and this would not be dependent on the child or their parents requesting the assessment.

Young carers’ right to an assessment would also be strengthened so that they would receive one if it appeared to a local authority that they needed support. The bill as stands would only give councils a power to carry out such an assessment on the request of the child or their parents.

Further government amendments would place a duty on councils to promote integration between social care and housing, as well as health, and do more to ensure that people who need it can access financial advice on social care. Councils would also be able to meet a terminally-ill person’s needs without having to carry out an assessment or make a determination of eligibility.