We’ve been publicly consulting on the cap on social care costs and a new appeals system since February 2015. These are part of the biggest reforms to social care and support in decades, brought in as part of the Care Act 2014. As part of the consultation, we’ve been traveling up and down the country, attending events to explain the proposals in detail and listening to what people think about them. There are just a few days remaining before the consultation closes and we hope that understanding some of the emerging themes may help your thinking and spur you to contribute.
Understanding care and support
We know that people often do not understand what care and support is, and indeed that they have to pay for it at all. There is a perception that the NHS provides free care when needed but, in fact, social care has always been chargeable. Our reforms are intended to create a fairer partnership between the person and the state in meeting those costs. In other words, people will not be left to meet unending costs on their own and will not risk losing everything they have. However, we know we have some work to do to help people to understand the costs they might face. That’s why we’re planning a national behaviour change campaign, to encourage people to plan for the costs of care and support in later life.
Keeping things clear
Introducing a cap on care costs that treats people fairly is complex. We are acutely aware many people will only start to think about this in the midst of a crisis. We need to accommodate this when we consider both the process and the way we talk about it. Can we make things simpler? How do we get the balance right? Many of you have offered your views on this but there is still time to add new perspectives.
We have heard that a lot of people have had expectations created by what they have seen or heard in the media, portraying the cap as a ‘target’ to be hit. This is not the intention. Instead the reforms are a protection for everyone, with the cap most likely to be met by those with the longest and most complex – and therefore most expensive – care journeys. People have also expressed concerns around overall funding for social care, again something played out in the media.
The appeals process
This is the first consultation for appeals where we are consulting on policy proposals rather than formal regulations and guidance. Just to recap: we are exploring how an appeals process might allow people to challenge care and support decisions and have their issues resolved in a timely and respectful way. Questions have been raised about the ‘independent reviewer’ role and how the new appeals system will work alongside existing processes such as the complaints system, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) and judicial reviews. Thoughts on the role of advocates and advocacy services generally have been offered and how this would work with the appeals process.
Involving care providers
You’ve said that those who provide care need to be involved in helping to design how the reforms will work. They need to understand the impact the proposals will have on their businesses, and be clear with customers on how the changes will affect them. We agree and would really like to hear from as many providers as possible – there’s still time!
So, what next?
Local authorities are being encouraged to begin care cost assessments in October of this year. Meanwhile, the care cap and appeals process will come into force in April 2016. Your views still matter so, even in these last few days of the consultation, your contributions will be just as valid – and valued. Get involved!