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FEATURE|HFT TALK IN DEPTH ABOUT THE CARE ACT
              The duty to ‘promote wellbeing’ applies to people and their family carers. ‘Promote’ means ‘to actively encourage’. In many cases we see the opposite of this happening, perhaps because the focus of local authorities is on managing budgets rather than working well with the individual and their family.
Local authorities have a legal duty to provide, among other things, accessible information and advice about the different types of support in their local area and how people can access it. Personalised information, such as direct payment agreements or care and support plans, must be given in an accessible format that the person understands. Some areas do this better than others, however there are still thousands of people who don’t know what local support options are available to them. Many local authorities provide a wealth of information online, however even if family carers have access to the internet, they are unlikely to have time to search for information, especially if they don’t know what information they need.
If a local authority decides a person or a family carer has ‘significant difficulty’ in being involved in Care Act processes, such as assessments and care and support planning, they have a duty under the Care Act to provide the person or family carer with an Independent Advocate to support them through the process and have their views heard. Unfortunately the need for Independent Advocacy isn’t recognised in many cases and it has been reported that referrals are ‘way below’ the expected number.
Visit: www.communitycare.co.uk/ 2016/01/13/social­workers­urged­review­ practice­given­low­care­act­advocacy­ case­numbers
As part of the intentions of the Care Act to create a social care system that is proactive rather than only supporting people in crisis, local authorities have a legal duty to
‘prevent, reduce and delay needs’. We know that putting support in place now to prevent a physical or emotional decline in future saves public spending on emergency support, and most importantly keeps the person safe and enables them to live a good life. This means giving consideration to the person’s whole life and ambitions now, and for the future whether that is in 6 months, 10 or 20 years’ time. This requires a shift in thinking for local authority assessors who may be under pressure from internal funding panels to reduce expenditure and meet only the current crisis issue at hand.
Family carers must be offered a Carers Assessment if they have an ‘appearance of need’. The Care Act requires the assessment to look at the impact of caring on a family carer’s wellbeing in relation to different areas of day to day life, including:
• maintaining a habitable home environment;
• developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships;
• engaging in work, training, education or volunteering; and
• making use of necessary facilities or services in the local community, including recreational facilities or services’.
It should be a conversation, rather than ticking boxes on a form, allowing discussion about the different ways they support their relative (or friend) and the impact this has on their ‘wellbeing’. This includes emotional support as well as the more physical and practical tasks. To meet the expected increased demand for carers’ assessments, some local authorities have designed online self­assessments. Family carers often find it difficult to identify the tasks they do because they are a family carer, and often need to have a discussion with a person to highlight these and recognise the real level of need for support the family carer has. This is near impossible through an online assessment, and family carers have the right to request a face to face assessment.
Unfortunately,
we know that although the
intention of the new law is to improve support for people and their family carers, many people continue to have their legal rights ignored. This means family carers are under more pressure to make up for the loss of support for their relative with learning disabilities to prevent their relative’s life from deteriorating.
Family carers want to support their relative to have a good life. They shouldn’t have to constantly fight for basic needs to be appropriately supported.
The impact of budget cuts and the law
It is impossible to ignore the fact that adult social care is under huge financial pressure as we hear about it almost daily in national and local press. We hear about excellent supportive services closing due to lack of funding, stories of people’s lives becoming more difficult and less safe because they do not have enough support.
Most importantly, we have also heard about local authorities challenging central Government about the lack of funding provided to implement the new Care Act, Visit: www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/03/26/ councils­mount­legal­challenge­care­act­ funding­allocations
Visit: www.communitycare.co.uk/ 2015/07/30/government­reconsider­care­act­ funding­allocations­bid­quash­legal­challenge/ and a social worker publicly agreeing with a challenge to the local authority they work for, that they are not fulfilling their legal duties under the Care Act and
Visit: www.communitycare.co.uk/ 2016/03/08/dear­senior­managers­feels­ deliver­cuts­cast­service­users­adrift/
The Family Carer Support Service believes that all local authorities should challenge central Government if their funding provision does not allow them to correctly follow the law.
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