It's a big day for social care

1 April 2015

Alice Mitchell-Pyeby Alice Mitchell-Pye

The Care Act comes into force today. This is great news for disabled and older people — and carers too.

We now have a single, modern law that places people’s individual wellbeing at the heart of social care. This is a huge step forward. These reforms should make care fairer, easier to access and more personalised — ensuring people have the support they need to achieve the things that are important to them.

From today, local councils have the task of making this new vision a reality for the more than one million people receiving social care. They have lots of new responsibilities to support disabled and older people, from providing information and advice, to care planning to funding. A really important one is to put a stop to inappropriate 15-minute care visits. Guidance accompanying the act says councils should no longer commission these flying visits for personal care.

A huge difference

We’re delighted about this. Inappropriate flying care visits are hugely distressing for disabled people and those supporting them, and we have been campaigning for an end to them for a long time. No-one should ever be forced to choose between having a cup of tea and going to the loo.

We’re really pleased that councils have been told clearly that from tomorrow they shouldn’t commission inappropriate flying care visits. It will make a huge difference to thousands of people’s lives, ensuring they are supported properly and with dignity. As Janet, who currently receives 15-minute visits, told us:

‘It would make a big difference if I had longer visits. They’re trying to rush me all the time. I’m very depressed, I cry a lot and I’m very lonely.’

Still a long way to go

But this new guidance isn’t the end of the journey.

We’ve made some important progress over the past year: 22 councils have changed their policy on 15-minute visits since the start of our campaign, and six of these councils have stopped them entirely.

But there’s still a long way to go before we can be sure that no-one is receiving inappropriate flying care visits. Today, as the Care Act comes into force, 71% of councils are still commissioning 15-minute care visits, and eight are delivering more than a third of all care visits in 15 minutes or less.

We know that most councils would like to put a stop to flying care visits and are committed to improving care and support for disabled and older people. From today it's their responsibility to make sure they deliver these reforms — they will be breaking the law if they don't. But the government has a vital role to play in ensuring they have the right support and sufficient resources to do this.

Care system in crisis

By 2020 there will be a £4.3 billion funding gap in social care. The reality is that funding cuts in social care — £3.5 billion over the past five years alone — are putting this and many of the Care Act’s other important reforms in jeopardy.

The care system is in crisis. Without a fair and sustainable funding settlement from the government, we may never see the Care Act’s vision become a reality. This would be a tragedy.

Indeed, this new vision for care will mean little to the more than 100,000 people who can’t access the care and support they need to do basic everyday tasks like washing, dressing and eating. Or the thousands more who don’t have the support they need to work, volunteer and access education.

The next government must take action to ensure care is fair for everyone. Above all, this means a fair and sustainable long-term funding settlement to make this forward-thinking vision a reality.

Alice Mitchell-Pye is a policy and campaigns officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability.

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