The Law Commission has just published its tenth programme of law reform, which embraces seven new projects that will keep it busy for the next three years. The first new project in its schedule is reform of the law relating to adult social care, with the Department of Health identified as the lead on this. The commission starts from the premise that the legislative framework for adult residential care, community care and support for carers is inadequate, often incomprehensible and outdated. Most lawyers and practitioners in this field would agree. The Law Commission points out that, for example, there are currently four different statutes covering care assessments, all of which differ in a number of respects. In addition to the different statutes, there are a huge number of guidance notes, departmental circulars and the like. The law also suffers from the fact that it has accrued over a period of fifty years with different and outdated definitions of disability in use and different tests applying to care assessment procedures.
The commission points out that there are about 1.75 million clients for adult social care services attracting expenditure from local and central government of £19.3 billion annually. The Law Commission's project is described as a major undertaking but it is hoped that it will improve efficiency and effectiveness through a modernised legal structure that will have a positive impact on many people’s lives.
Clearly, this is part of the process of endeavouring to draw together in a clear and coherent manner the provision of both social and healthcare services.
A scoping review will run until November 2008, with substantive work starting in January 2009 intended to lead to a new Bill by July 2012.