Review raises fears over government’s plans for care duties


Disabled people have “reasons to be very nervous” about a government review which questions whether local authorities should still have a legal duty to assess disabled people’s care needs, say campaigners.

A wide-ranging review led by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) department has “identified” 1,294 statutory duties that have been imposed over the years on local authorities through legislation.

The review says: “While some duties remain vital, others may no longer be needed or may create unnecessary burdens or restrictions on local authorities.”

The duties include a string of social care obligations, such as the duty to assess a disabled person’s care and support needs, and to improve its adult social services when they are found to be “failing” by the Care Quality Commission.

Others include the provision of disabled facilities grants and “short breaks” for carers of disabled children.

Solicitor Frances Lipman, from Disability Law Service, said the government could be planning to “water down” some of the duties, for example by making it harder for a disabled person to secure an assessment of their needs.

She said: “At the moment you just need to have an appearance of need and you get an assessment, even if you may not be likely to get services because your needs are not severe enough.

“There is no absolute entitlement to anything apart from the assessment, which is why it is so important that that remains.

“There is not an enormous amount of social care duties, but the ones that are there are quite fundamental.”

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said: “Anything the government is reviewing in that regard must raise concerns because of what they have proposed in other areas.

“Because of the extreme need of individuals who may be affected any restrictive change could have a very serious impact, even if it looks superficially minor.”

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said there were “a lot of reasons to be very nervous for disabled people” about the review, including “big concerns” over the inclusion of the duty to assess disabled people’s needs.

He said that – in the wake of the government’s “unprecedented” healthcare reforms, which themselves have little support and “clear risks” for disabled people – it was not possible to say that crucial social care duties were safe.

He said: “We really don’t know. Let’s not make any assumptions about what the government will or will not do.”

The “informal consultation exercise” closes on 25 April.

17 March 2011