My hopes for the Care Act
When the long-awaited Care Act was published, it was the biggest shake-up of health and social care legalisation in a generation. I thought: ‘Here we go – some more legal stuff to get my head around.’ But it did also give me some hope for a better life for my son.
My son, Alex, is 22 years old, has severe learning difficulties, autism and behaviour that challenges. We had recently been through the gruelling process of transition from children’s services to adult services. This was far from easy, with cuts made to the services and support that Alex, and we as carers, had previously received. Could a little glimmer of hope have arrived? Might the Care Act change and improve Alex’s support and care? What would this mean for our family?
The Care Act is a huge piece of legislation which changes the law that preceded it. A mammoth document of hundreds of pages – where to start? I was fortunate enough to be involved in a Care Act “Action Planning Day” at the Challenging Behaviour Foundation recently, where we discussed what the Care Act means for the work of the CBF. All that complex legal language was made more easily understandable, and it focused on people like Alex – the people whom the CBF supports.
Alex is still in education and has an Education Health and Care Plan which was produced under another new piece of legislation: The Children and Families Act 2014. The two acts interlink, with an extensive section on transition for young people. I have yet to meet any families who had a good experience of transition for their young person.
What makes both these acts different is that the disabled person’s wellbeing is at the heart of it all. It also now gives carers the legal right to a Carer’s Assessment and to have their own needs met and delivered through a support plan. Previously, Carer’s Assessments could be offered, but in reality they didn't always happen. I was never offered one.
So, in practice, nearly one year on, are carers being recognised and supported in their own right? I have yet to see a carer’s support plan. Local Authorities need to make sure that their social workers/care managers are trained adequately in the Care Act, and that they are able to adapt to this new philosophy when they undertake assessments and arrange subsequent support.
With a fragile social care system, and more and more cuts to the budget, how can the personalisation of care and support which runs through the Act be achieved? I believe the Care Act’s aims of improving care, creating positive outcomes and giving people control over their own lives are long-overdue and achievable. But in reality, will any of them happen? It’s early days yet!
Debbie Altieri, Family Carer