The Care Act 2014 was implemented in April 2015. It overhauled the social care system and changed the provision of care and support for older people and those with disabilities.

What changes did it introduce?

The following changes were introduced:

(a) There is a new national level of care and support needs which must be met by social services, for those in need of care. This is intended to make the provision of care and support more consistent across the country;

(b) There is new support and access to services available for carers;

(c) Social services safeguarding duties for adults are now statutory;

(d) Councils have to work together to make sure that there is no gap in care if an individual moves to another area in England;

(e) Deferred payment agreements are extended to all of England (so individuals should not have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for their care);

(f) Following an announcement made by the government in July 2015, the provision to introduce the £72,000 capital cap on care fees (which was due to take effect in April 2016) has been postponed until April 2020;

(g) Local authorities now have a legal responsibility to provide a care and support plan for those in need of care and support who are eligible and a support plan for carers in need of support who are eligible;

(h) Any decisions about care and support will now consider the individual’s wellbeing and what is important to them and their family, so that they can stay healthy and remain independent for longer;

(i) Although it is not explicitly stated in the Act, it is implied that independent living should be promoted where possible;

(j) Individuals who have care and support needs, and who have difficulty being involved in the decision making, and who do not have anyone to support them (such as the family member or friend), will be entitled to have assistance from an independent advocate provided by the local authority;

(k) People now have an entitlement to receive direct payments to arrange their own care and support in certain circumstances.

Why was the Care Act 2014 brought in to law? Prior to introduction of the Act, individuals were entitled to different types of care and support and these entitlements were governed by a variety of laws, creating a complex system. The Care Act 2014 focuses on the needs of individuals. The new law also allows for people to be assessed based on a standardised basis, as opposed to different groups of people being assessed differently depending on their needs. It is therefore intended to remove the chance of discrimination taking place when assessing needs. Who is responsible/ held accountable with regard to the Care Act 2014? The Care Act holds the local authority responsible for ensuring that an individual receives the care and support they require (and their carers receive the support they require), as a result of their needs.

When does the wellbeing duty arise?

The duty of the local authority to consider wellbeing arises :

a) In the assessment of care and support needs (for those in need of care); and

b) In the assessment of support needs (for those carers in need of support); and

c) When drawing up a care and support plan/support plan; and

d) When reviewing a care and support plan/support plan.

What are the problems with the Care Act 2014?

There are a number of potential problems with the Care Act 2014. The duty under the Care Act is to meet an individual’s needs, rather than to provide a particular set of services, and there is no list defining what the local authority should offer to meet needs.

The local authority can exercise their discretion when deciding how needs can be met, so there is no certainty over what local authorities are required to do to discharge their duty. The duty can be discharged in some cases by providing information/signposting to other (charitable) organisations, so it will not necessarily result in financial assistance being provided where care and support needs are identified.