My Lords, I, too, am delighted that these amendments have given us the opportunity to debate the eligibility criteria and I echo the comments of noble Lords who know better than I do how this will affect them. Eligibility is a critical issue, which affects both disabled people and older people with care needs—disabled people account for one-third of the people affected by the Bill and elderly people the other two-thirds.
The Joint Committee warmly recommended the introduction of a national minimum eligibility threshold as a key way of resolving the current postcode lottery in social care. The new eligibility framework and national threshold proposed in the Bill will go a huge way to alleviate the lottery of care and will be vital in ensuring that there is more clarity and consistency in the provision of care for disabled people and the elderly in England.
The focus on well-being in the Bill was hugely welcomed by the committee. This principle is the thread that runs through the Bill and will ensure that the care system not only delivers basic support but promotes older and disabled people’s independence, allowing them to realise their potential through participating more fully in their communities. This is a bold vision for the future and one that could truly revolutionise the care system. It is therefore key that these two elements of the Bill work seamlessly together so that the well-being principle is at the forefront of the Government’s mind when considering who will be eligible for care, something that the committee explicitly recommended in its report on the Bill.
However, as the Government have rightly recognised, social care is not merely about allowing people to “survive” but about enabling them to live full and independent lives. The Bill explicitly places a duty on local authorities to provide care that promotes the well-being of individuals. In a conversation yesterday with the Minister for Care and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, it was acknowledged that the draft regulations, which have already been referred to in this debate, were just that—draft. Much more can and needs to be done to make them asset or strength-based. Can my noble friend ensure that the work on the draft regulations proceeds at pace so that they are fit for purpose and meet the needs and requirements of all within the scope of the Bill? Can he also ensure that any work involves those from the sector and expert Members of this House?