Care and support is something that nearly everyone will need or provide at some point in their lives; even if we don’t need care ourselves, we will probably know a family member or friend who does, and many of us will end up the role of being a carer for someone. The Care Act 2014 is an historic piece of legislation because it includes the first overhaul of social care statute in England for more than 60 years.
The Act is designed to improve the lives of people who need care, as well as the lives of those caring for them.
We highlight below some of the key changes which The Care Act 2014, which came into effect from April 2016:
Minimum eligibility threshold for all Local Authorities.
Councils now have a duty to consider the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the individual needing care. They will also consider preventative services to maintain people’s health, because The Care Act acknowledges that early intervention and prevention should assist in providing support before people reach a crisis.
A person needing care can ask their council to make a direct payment to themselves and can select and organise their own support and care arrangements. Under The Care Act, the Local Authority can make a direct payment instead of arranging or providing any services itself, if the adult asks them to do so. This ensures the adult can take full control over their own care and arrange support that suits their individual needs.
Access to Financial Advice
Councils must now enable people to access independent financial advice to help steer them through the complexities of care funding. The Care Act requires that financial advice must be accessible to all, so it cannot be simply online, and must be “proportionate” to an individual’s needs, including advocacy where appropriate.
Cap on individual contribution to care
One of the biggest concerns people have is how they will pay for their care. Until now people have faced losing almost everything they’ve worked hard for in order to get the care they need – in the worst cases, many have to sell their home or exhaust their life savings.
The new Care Act caps the amount people have to spend on the care they need, regardless of how much they have in savings or assets. Once that cap on care of £72,000 is reached the state will pay those costs. On top of this the means testing level has been increased so that government help kicks in far earlier than before, meaning people with modest wealth will be eligible for state help towards that cap.
Increase in Asset Allowance
Currently, only people with less than £23,250 in assets (such as savings or property) and low incomes receive help from the state with their residential care costs. Changes in The Care Act mean that people with around £118,000 worth of assets or less will start to receive financial support if they need to go into a residential care home. The amount that the Government will pay towards someone’s care home costs will depend on what assets a person has.
Care and support is not a free service like the NHS. People have always had to pay something towards the cost of their care and support. Sometimes the person will pay the full cost, or sometimes the cost will be shared between the person and their local authority. To decide what a person can afford to pay, the Local Authority will carry out a financial assessment. The Local Authority will consider the person’s income, and any assets they own, like investments or a house. The Local Authority will then calculate how much the person can afford to pay towards their care and support costs. Sometimes a home-owner may want to consider a deferred payment agreement with the local authority. This is an arrangement whereby the person does not have to sell their home, during their lifetime, to afford the costs of their care. Instead, the Local Authority pays a larger share of the costs at first. The money that the person owes for their care is then collected from the sale of their property at a later date.
The NHS has set up new online provider profiles (a description of the care offered) on the NHS Choices website. These are designed to signpost available resources and to help people choose, compare and comment on care homes and other care services. You can access the website using this link.
Caring for Carers
Local Authorities’ new duty to promote people’s well-being will now apply not just to those who need social services support, but also to carers. And not only to carers of adults: a corresponding duty in respect of parent carers of disabled under-18’s has been included in the Children and Families Act 2014, which was proceeding in parallel with The Care Act 2014.
Right of Appeal
For the first time, there will be a system by which people may appeal against council decisions on eligibility and funding for care and support. The details of the system will be set out in regulations, but it will be independent and ministers will have authority to make its decisions binding.
Of course, it remains to be seen how the new provisions will work out in the longer term. We will review in due course…