Uncertain support - getting to grips with the Care Act

Monday, 9 March 2015 - 10:00am

The Care Act 2014 signals the most significant reform of publicly funded care and support in England for the past 60 years.

Photograph: Michael Dunn (Flickr)

The Care Act replaces several existing pieces of legislation, with the aim of creating a consistent route to establishing whether or not someone is entitled to publicly funded care and support. It represents new duties for local authorities, and seeks to put the principle of ‘wellbeing’ at the heart of the outcomes people should expect from the care they receive. Significantly, it also brings about big changes to the way this funding is provided to individuals.

Yet at the moment there seem to be more questions than answers about what this means for the funding of support accessed and needed by many people experiencing homelessness, particularly those with the most complex needs.

There are mixed feelings about how far the opportunities presented by the Care Act – such as a stronger focus on prevention, and a duty to integrate care with ‘health related provision’ such as housing – offer ways to improve the access to and integration of care with the other services people may require. And importantly, with the Act providing a legal entitlement to a personal budget, there are uncertainties about the impact this will have to funding in a sector which to date, has largely been funded on the basis of ‘collective services’.

...there seem to be more questions than answers about what this means for the funding of support accessed and needed by many people experiencing homelessnes...

These and other questions are the subject of a recent discussion paper to which Homeless Link has contributed, alongside academics from Kings College London, London School of Economics and Liverpool University. It poses a number of challenges presented by the Care Act. It also raises questions we need to consider if the sector is to be able to respond well to the opportunities it presents in the years to come.

The language of the Care Act

One challenge is for the homelessness sector to become far better versed in the language of the Care Act, particularly the new eligibility regulations, so that we can effectively engage with and advocate for the people we support. It will also require better relationships with social care commissioners and health practitioners so that we can adequately understand and evidence the impact that homelessness has on someone’s wellbeing.

The paper also looks at the implications of the Care Act for the way packages of support are funded, in light of the legal entitlement to a personal budget for those who are eligible. Research so far has suggested the homelessness sector still approaches personal budgets with some nervousness. They are not widespread and, where they are used, it is often only as part of the wider package of support already offered by the service provider. Indeed, our 2015 Annual Review of the sector shows only 32% of agencies offer personal budgets of some kind.

Of course all this takes place against a backdrop of wider funding pressures, with 41% agencies in this year’s annual review reporting cuts to their funding. So in an already challenging funding environment the paper poses some of the issues we need to consider – and quickly – to be able to effectively engage with the commissioning changes the Act is likely to bring.

So while there is much still to grapple with, we hope this paper will stimulate debate and provoke more questions. Homeless Link will be building on it, working with our partners to learn from and influence the implementation of the Care Act to ensure the people you work with get fair access to care and support in the future.

Download "The Care Act, Personalisation and the New Eligibility Regulations"

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Helen Mathie

Helen Mathie

Head of policy and communications

Helen currently job shares her role with Caroline Bernard, jointly overseeing Homeless Link’s policy, research, information and communications team.