Care Act 2014 becomes law

The Care Act 2014, described as the biggest overhaul of adult social care law and practice in more than 60 years, has been approved in Parliament and received Royal Assent on 14 May.

Care minister Norman Lamb said that the Act delivers key elements of the Government’s response to the Francis Inquiry into the failings in care at Mid Staffordshire hospital, and that it was designed to increase transparency and openness and help drive up the quality of care across the system. He announced: “The Care Act has created a single, modern law that makes it clear what kind of care people should expect.”

The Act introduces new measures including the national minimum eligibility threshold that clarifies when local authorities have to provide council-funded social care and support, and a cap of £72,000 on the costs that people will have to pay towards their own care, not including accommodation costs.

Councils will also be required to offer deferred payment schemes so that people will not be forced to sell their homes to pay for residential care in their lifetime.

New rights for carers have been created so that they will be given a needs assessment and the right to receive support if they are eligible. Personal budgets have been legislated for, together with a new duty on councils to provide preventive services to support people’s health and to consider the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals in all decisions regarding an individual’s care needs, and assessments will have to consider the whole family.

Public services are required to provide advice and information, continuity of care and integrated professional services. For the first time, safeguarding is placed on a statutory footing and the role of advocacy is extended.

The chief inspector of social care also gets new powers to hold poor-performing providers to account.

Mr Lamb said: “Even if you don’t need care yourself, you will probably know a family member or friend who does, or you may care for someone. And many more of us will need care in the future, so it is important for us to have a modern system that can keep up with the demands of a growing ageing population.”

The Alzheimer’s Society said the Act was a step in the right direction. However, it stated: “While the Care Act 2014 simplifies the system it does not solve the crisis in social care funding. The cap on funding will help people financially, but more needs to be done to make sure eligibility criteria don’t prevent people accessing vital services early. The vast majority of people with dementia rely on support from social services to cope with everyday life and it is essential that they get this support to help maintain their independence and quality of life.”

Disability Rights UK said it will respond to future consultations on the regulations and guidance that accompany the Act and added: “It is the detail contained within these documents and the way in which they are implemented which will determine how successful the new Care Act will be.”

The Department of Health (DH) will consult on the drafts of related regulations and guidance in the near future. A government consultation on the detail of how the system of paying for social care would work, Caring for our Future: Implementing Funding Reform, ran between July and October 2013 and the DH has not yet responded to this.