One of the biggest statute reforms to social care in more than 60 years is set to come into effect from next April, following a lengthy passage through Parliament.
The Care Act will come into effect in Northamptonshire from April amid bold claims the legislation will put ‘well-being’ at the heart of every care decision and offer more support for carers - a person who regularly looks after an elderly or disabled person - in their own right.
The new laws will scrap rules that see those with assets of more than £23,250 forced to pay for such care, increasing that threshold to £118,000.
A £72,000 cap will be set on the total amount an individual has to pay and, for the first time, local authorities must enable people to access independent financial advice and information to steer them through the complexities of funding.
But with potentially thousands more soon to be eligible to have their care funded by the county council, questions are being raised as to how authority will pay for the act.
Programme director Cathi Sacco is leading the implementation of the act at Northamptonshire County Council.
She said: “We are definitely going to need more funding from central Government. It’s going to be all about lobbying and consultation, but that is all taking place right now.”
The measures in the Care Act will be phased in over two years. From April 2015, the council will have to begin carrying out new standardised assessments on who is eligible for care funding based on physical and mental capabilities.
It will also need to launch a deferred payment scheme, where people can delay payment of care fees, with the money and interest repaid to the local authority after their death or when the house is sold. But Ms Sacco said year two would pose the bigger problem, when the £118,000 care threshold and £72,000 care cap come into effect.
“It’s a great unknown just how many more people are going to be eligible” she said. “That is our great concern.”
But she added: “I don’t think anyone should get too excited or nervous just yet. I can’t see anyone not benefitting from the act.”
County council’s cabinet is due to debate how it implements the act on September 9 and a host of consultation events are set to follow in the coming months.
But cabinet member for adult social care, Councillor Suresh Patel (Con, Duston East) said the act would make for two challenging yearly budgets and did not rule out the fact money may need to be diverted from other frontline services. “It’s not going to be easy, but we can’t say it cannot be managed,” he said.
Despite fears the Act will pose difficult financial restraints on the county council, Ms Sacco said the measures proposed in it were being largely welcomed, particularly by many of Northamptonshire’s 70,000 home carers, who look after disabled and elderly relatives with little or no financial assistance in some cases.
“Carers will be the first to benefit from this,” she said.