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Law Commission delivers social care review

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Proposals to legally define minimum levels of social care provision and better aid the transfer of residents’ care packages between local authorities have been unveiled by the Law Commission.

The final results of its two-and-a-half year project to streamline and clarify social care law also include the provision of some universal care-related services to residents regardless of income and a duty to assess care needs from a “low qualifying threshold”. The findings could be used to create a framework for new health and social care laws.

The commission has also called for a duty to co-operate between councils, the police, and health services in relation to social care.

Frances Patterson, the public law commissioner leading the review, said the report marked a significant step towards a “clearer and more coherent” legal framework for social care.

“Our recommendations will protect the strong rights that exist in adult social care law while, at the same time, ensuring that emerging policy objectives such as personalisation and self-directed support are recognised fully in statute law,” she said.

Stephen Lowe, social care policy advisor at Age UK, said he expected less litigation between local authorities to be one result of the Law Commission’s work.

“The advantage for local authorities is that there won’t need to be so many court cases because it will be clearer what the law means,” he said.

However he said that defining minimum standards would not be an easy task.

Sarah Pickup, vice president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Service, said the report’s focus on overall wellbeing was an important development and stressed that the purpose of the exercise had been to “correct and clarify” existing law, rather than to create new laws.

However, she said it was possible that new proposals for the assessment of carers could create additional work for local authorities and that the suggested relaxation of rules stopping direct payments being used to fund residential care would require further work.

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