My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Low and Lord Touhig, for bringing forward these amendments. I say straight away that I fully support the intention of Amendment 88M, which is to ensure that local authorities engage a suitable expert when carrying out complex assessments. The assessment will remain an integral part of the process of determining a person’s care and support needs and whether these meet the national eligibility criteria. To ensure that this is done correctly, it is essential that the person carrying out the assessment has the right knowledge, skills and competence. We heard from users of care and support during the engagement on the draft Bill about the importance of the assessor having knowledge of the condition that the person may have, whether they are, for example, a frail older person, a person with mental health problems or a person with autism.
Care managers and social workers are trained to carry out assessments. Their skills and experience will allow them to assess people with various conditions such as physical disability. There are, however, certain complex conditions where these skills are not sufficient to allow assessments to be carried out effectively. I am particularly thinking about a person who is deafblind—the example, given by the noble Lord, Lord Low. In those circumstances, most care managers would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with the person. It takes someone with expertise to carry out an assessment properly and identify the person’s needs and the outcomes they wish to achieve.
I agree with the noble Lords that, in such circumstances, the local authority must engage a person with the relevant expertise to carry out the assessment. That continues to be our policy. I also accept that if the adult’s condition is so complex at the assessment stage as to require the services of an expert in the field to provide advice, then it makes perfect sense for this to be repeated when the plan is to be reviewed. I should like to reassure the Committee that the Bill already has provisions in place to allow this joined-up approach to occur if an adult’s circumstances have changed in a way that affects the care plan. Clause 27(4) states that the local authority must, to the extent it considers appropriate, carry out a fresh needs assessment. In doing so, it would have to follow the requirements of regulations to consult a person with expertise. I hope I have reassured noble Lords of our agreement to the principles that they raise. In the light of what they have said in support of the amendment, I will look again at Clause 12 to ensure that we are giving ourselves the relevant powers to achieve our aims. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Low, will find that undertaking welcome.