After years of attempts at a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to reform adult social care in England, this has finally been achieved by the Care Act finishing its passage through Parliament. The Act aims to bring together “threads from over a dozen different Acts into a single, modern framework” for care and support. This is a landmark Act which is expected to fundamentally change the landscape of adult social care in England.
Among the Act’s most notable changes is the introduction of a new funding structure which will include a cap of £72,000 on the amount that people will have to contribute towards their personal care, along with changes to the upper and lower means test thresholds. News of the ‘cap’ has been widely and justifiably welcomed.
However, it is crucial that people are aware that this is not a cap on the total cost of social care, but just on the personal social care element, which for those in residential care is typically around a third of all costs. The cap will also not cover general living expenses (which looks set to be around £12,000 a year) and any costs above the rate paid by their local authority.
The new care system will also include greater emphasis on financial information and advice for those requiring care. Under the Care Act, local authorities must establish and maintain a service for providing people with information and advice on how to access independent financial advice on matters relevant to the meeting needs for care and support.
This is an essential part of the new system for those who have to pay for all or some of their care needs and will help ensure that they are best placed to make decisions about how best to fund their care.
These are significant changes to the system, and mark a new chapter for adult social care in England.
The Care Act is due to be implemented in stages between April 2015 and April 2016:
Deferred Payment Arrangements
National minimum eligibility criteria
Cap of £72,000 on care fees, based on the local authority rate
General living costs of around £12,000 per year
Changes to upper and lower capital limits