Report offers government a ‘clear and affordable’ social care solution


theweeksubA new report by MPs and peers has called on the government to use its new care bill to provide a social care system that enables disabled people to live “truly independent lives”.

The report, Promoting Independence, Preventing Crisis, offers the government a “clear, affordable and essential” solution to the adult social care crisis, just as the care bill – which applies to England and Wales – begins its journey through parliament.

The report focuses on the need for a right to independent living, more generous eligibility criteria for council support, a focus on preventative care, and the need for the government to provide more funding for social care.

It says that disabled people need a social care system that enables them to live as “active” citizens and not just as passive clients of care, and one which enables disabled people to live independently, with “dignity, fairness and respect”.

Leading disabled campaigners – including Jane Young, Liz Sayce and Julie Jaye Charles – gave evidence in person to the inquiry, while the disabled peers Lord [Colin] Low and Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins were part of the 10-strong inquiry panel of MPs and peers.

The report was published just days before peers are set to begin debating the care bill, and is the product of an inquiry into adult social care reform for working-age disabled people, set up in February by the all party parliamentary groups on disability and local government, and supported by the disability charity Scope.

In an introduction to the report, the disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell and Labour’s Anne McGuire, two of the inquiry’s joint chairs, said they believed their recommendations – if implemented – would help create “an ambitious care system fit for the 21st century”.

Baroness Campbell told the parliamentary launch event she believed the public had “woken up properly now to the fact that social care is in crisis and they are demanding that us politicians meet and address this challenge”.

She said that parliamentarians were beginning to understand the meaning of “independent living”, and the rights enshrined in the UN disability convention.

Baroness Campbell said the report was a “rich source of up-to-date evidence on the state of care and support for disabled people” and should prove “invaluable” to peers and MPs as parliament debated the new bill.

Just minutes after the event, Baroness Campbell introduced her own social care portability bill in the House of Lords, which she described as “a model” for “what the government could do” in its care bill.

Her bill would allow disabled people in England and Wales to retain an “equivalent” support package when they relocate to a different part of the country – for a certain period of time – with “timely and seamless” transitional arrangements.

At present, the government’s care bill would ensure that a disabled person’s support package would continue when they moved to a new area, but only until they were reassessed by their new local authority.

If the costs or needs identified by the reassessment were different, the new council would then only have to provide a “written explanation of the difference”.

Sue Bott, Disability Rights UK’s director of development, said she was pleased with the progress on portability in the government’s bill, but going “that little bit further” and protecting people’s care packages would “really give people the confidence to be able to move”.

She said disability campaigners would also be focusing on how the care bill dealt with charging for care.

Bott said she was concerned that the bill could give local authorities “a licence to do whatever they like” when charging, because there is nothing that says councils have to pay due regard to what is reasonable and to people’s ability to pay, as there is in current social care legislation.

She said that charging was already “out of control. Local authorities can do what they like. There is nobody keeping an eye on what happens.”

She said she was also concerned that the care bill’s clauses on direct payments – which allow disabled people greater control over their support – might be a step backwards, with disabled people now appearing to have the right only to “request” direct payments, whereas councils currently have to “offer” them to someone with a care package.

She said she would like to see the bill include a legal right to direct payments.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat care services minister Norman Lamb announced new government plans for a more integrated health and care system, with “the biggest ever commitment to making coordinated health and care a reality”.

16 May 2013