The Care Act came into force in England on April  1 2015. It replaced the 1948 National Assistance Act and 60 years of piecemeal amending legislation that both consolidated and simplified care law in England. It set in place a new organising principle for decision makers, the promotion of individual wellbeing, and placed the rights of informal carers on an equal footing to those with care needs.

One year after the Act’s implementation former Minister of State for Care and Support, Rt Hon Prof Paul Burstow, was asked by the Carers Trust to chair a review Commission to find out how the

Care Act was working for carers. The results of  the inquiry were published in the House of Commons on 4 July 2016, and available here.

During the course of the 6 month enquiry the review Commission conducted an online and offline survey, took written submissions and held three oral evidence days in Birmingham, Leeds and London.

The results showed that although the Care Act had been widely welcomed, implementation of the Act was far from complete. 69% of carers responding to the survey had not noticed any difference since the Act’s introduction and many expressed frustration and anger at the lack of support they received in their caring role. The survey of carers found that too many carers were unaware of their rights and 65% of the carers surveyed had not received assessments under  the Act. 35% of those that had received assessments had not found them helpful.

The Care Act and statutory Guidance accompanying the Act make clear that carers’ eligibility for support is independent of the person they care for. The review found evidence to suggest that practitioners are not always clear on this point. It also appears that not all local authorities are complying with the letter of the law in the way they assess and respond to carers’ needs. The review recommended further study in relation to this. Many carers continue to find engagement with health services problematic for them and the person they care for, the report noted that there were many opportunities for the NHS to support carers, particularly with identification. The Commission welcomed the new NHS Carers Toolkit introduced in May 2016

There was little evidence that the Act’s market- shaping duty has benefited carers and  promoted innovation and the report suggested that local authorities could do more to develop their offer to carers.

In all the report makes 22 recommendations including the following key recommendations

  • It recommended that national and local Government, together with the NHS, urgently invest in the support needed to ensure that the new legal rights for carers are fully introduced in all areas, so that carers receive the assessment, support and breaks they  need to be able to choose how and  when they care.
  • Local authorities ensure that all  social workers and assessors are appropriately trained, and are able to reflect the wellbeing principle in assessment and care and support planning.
  • Local authorities, with the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), review their systems for monitoring progress in implementing the Act. The Short- and Long- Term (SALT) return should be reviewed, so that it captures all assessment and support activity for carers, including prevention.

The report concluded that there was still good reason to be optimistic about the transformative potential of the Care Act. However implementation support is still required, and it recommended that further study and evaluation should be put in place.

The report can usefully be read alongside:

  • ADASS’s Making Safeguarding Personal Temperature  Check  2016, a report

commissioned to review how the Making Safeguarding Personal approach has fared (and been improved) in light of the introduction of the Care Act;

  • NHS Digital’s most recent safeguarding statistics, showing that between April 2015 and March 2016 there were 102,970 individuals subject to enquiries under section 42 Care Act 2014, 930 fewer than in 2014-15. Amongst other data, it shows that 27% of adults subject to an enquiry lacked the capacity to make decisions about their protection, including their ability to participate in the investigation and their capacity at the time the incident that triggered the enquiry took place.