The greatest changes since 1948 were made to the social care system in 2015 - and these changes have affected people in social care jobs.

The Care Act replaced most of the laws regarding adults and carers in the social care system. In April 2015, most of the Act came into force. This covers how Local Authorities should carry out both carers’ and clients’ needs assessments; how LAs determine who is eligible for support, and LA’s new obligations.

In April 2016, the rest of the Care Act came into effect, including charging systems for residential or community care and the introduction of the ‘care cap’.

The implications for care workers and social workers in relation to the new measures are various. Clients as far as possible should choose their own services and delivery, and with personal budgets, have greater power to vote with their feet, selecting other providers who better meet their needs. Assessment and delivery to meet carers’ needs is also new. Care workers are the most envied in the UK and measures like these may have something to do with it. Let’s look at these changes, and how they might affect care workers and social workers.

Key points in the Care Act.

Councils and those who work in social care jobs need to introduce, enact or reinforce the following key points in the Care Act:

  • Promote wellbeing when deciding the care/support someone receives, improving the quality of life.
  • Prevention and delaying the need for support. Encouraging independence and recognising early warning signs are important, so action can be taken.
  • National minimum eligibility criteria /minimum threshold for support – instead of councils deciding their own (although they can still provide care to people falling below the threshold). New assessment criteria in some areas, asking clients if they can achieve outcomes.
  • Information and advice service. Councils will have to give people accessible information. Some people may need support to access the information, and this should be made available.
  • Effective commissioning and co-production of a diverse range of care/ support services. People who use the services should be involved in developing and selecting services paid for by the council.
  • User involvement, with new rights to independent advocacy. If a client has any difficulty being involved in assessment, care/support planning, reviews or safeguarding, and has no relative or friend to support their involvement, an independent advocate must be arranged.
  • Personalisation will create the care system, based on the care each individual person needs and wants. Following assessment, there is a duty to produce a care and support plan and to offer a Personal Budget, giving people the power to spend their money on the care they want, tailored to their needs. There is also a duty to review plans to make sure they continue to meet people’s needs.
  • The rights of carers are strengthened. Local councils must carry out an assessment of an informal carer’s or relative’s needs. Local authorities are required to directly meet carers’ eligible needs.
  • Duty to assess young adults, and assess carers of children likely to have needs as an adult, Help them plan for the adult care/support they may need before they (or their child) reach 18 years old.
  • Safeguarding is strengthened. Council enquiries if they suspect an adult is, or risks being, abused or neglected. Safeguarding Adults Boards, responsible for carrying out Safeguarding Adults Reviews, must be established by councils.
  • Reforms to funding. Limitations on the total costs people have to pay for their care. People should not have to sell their homes or assets to pay for care. Measures will be put in place for a cap on how much someone will pay over their lifetime (limiting the maximum amount of money people have to pay for their care to £72,000). The details are being consulted on, for these reforms from April 2016.
  • There will be tougher measures on service providers who deliver bad care.
  • The Care Act means formalising good practice that has already been taking place and incorporating it into the policy and procedures that dictate daily working life. Care workers and social workers will see evidence of these changes in training, assessment, planning, delivery of services and review. The aims are to improve the quality of care and support – and ultimately, the quality of life for service users and carers.