Social care reforms ‘must deliver for disabled people’


The government will need to “deliver real results” for disabled people when it introduces new social care legislation next year, according to a leading disabled figure.

The Law Commission’s long-awaited report on the reform of adult social care law in England and Wales, published last week, recommended a “single, clear, modern statute and code of practice that would pave the way for a coherent social care system”, with “individual well-being” the basis for all social care decisions.

Law commissioner Frances Patterson QC told a joint meeting of several all party parliamentary groups, including those on disability and social care, that she hoped the report would lead to a “much more sustainable system of social care”.

Paul Burstow, the care services minister, welcomed the report’s emphasis on the principle of “well-being”, simplified duties around assessment and the importance of portability.

He said the report had provided a “fantastic platform on which we can build” but that it was too early to provide details on the “important question” of how the government would define disabled people’s basic minimum entitlements to services.

Mike Smith, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s disability committee and chair of the National Centre for Independent Living, praised principles underpinning the report, particularly “the assumption that the person is the best judge of their own well-being” and that decision-makers “should follow the views of the individuals”.

But he warned that many disabled people were not receiving the services they needed or having their basic human rights met, which would be “challenging for the government” when drawing up its legislation.

He told campaigners to “keep your fingers on the pulse” to “make sure they deliver real results for all the people who we are here to support”.

Claire Glasman, from WinVisible, the national disabled women’s charity, said she feared the government’s new legislation would be “a sleight of hand to take away traditional entitlements we have had since the beginning of the welfare state”.

And she asked what safeguards there would be to ensure the government’s emphasis on personalisation was “not used to deprive people of support”.

Burstow said the government’s reforms were “not about discarding existing entitlements” but about “clarifying and making clearer existing entitlements, making access to the system simple and more straightforward”.

He said local authorities had been gradually tightening eligibility for care services for “a number of years” and – without reform – every council in the country would eventually restrict care only to those with “critical” needs.

The government is due to publish a white paper later this year, which will draw on the recommendations of both the Law Commission report and the Dilnot report on the funding of long-term care. It is set to introduce an adult social care bill next May, which should come into force in April 2015.

Burstow also announced that the government had already accepted one of the Law Commission’s recommendations, to make it a legal requirement for all local authorities to have an adult safeguarding board.

Although all councils already have such boards – which provide multi-agency leadership on adult protection issues – the government said their effectiveness was “variable” and making them mandatory would send “a strong signal about their importance”.

Burstow also published a set of six “key principles” which the government believes must “underpin safeguarding”.

18 May 2011

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