“intend to use regulations to ensure that services ... currently … provided free, including … minor aids or adaptations, remain provided free of charge”.—[ Official Report , 21/5/13; col. 826.]
That seems only right, since minor aids and adaptations are qualifying services under the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc) Act (Qualifying Services) (England) Regulations 2003.
The Government do not want to see local authorities charging for services that they are not permitted to charge for today. Clauses 2(3)(b) and 14(6) hint at this, explaining that regulations may prohibit local authorities from charging for particular types of support. However, the Bill should be explicit about what local authorities are prohibited from charging for.
I shall take the amendments in reverse order. Amendment 92ZZM relates specifically to personal budgets and would ensure that anyone needing care and support and requiring equipment or adaptations costing under £1,000 would not be financially assessed as part of a personal budget, which would effectively impose a charge for those items. In considering the amendment, will the Minister clarify how equipment and adaptations will be provided for in personal budgets? Will he ensure that regulations are unambiguously clear on the need for equipment and adaptations to remain free and for there to be no variations at a local level? The College of Occupational Therapists has some concerns about this.
I know that the Minister understands how important these provisions are to ensure effective preventive services that reduce both the demands on care services and the cost to local councils. In many instances, occupational therapists assist those requiring care and support by recommending the provision of equipment, minor adaptations and assistive technology, often resulting in recommendations for disabled facilities grants for safe management of progressive conditions and the moving and handling of people.
Equipment and adaptations are critically important, as they reduce the need for escalating care, protecting the individual and saving the resources of cash-strapped local authorities. Any reference to the provision of equipment and adaptations is notably absent from the legislation. However, these aids are critical for many people, and it is important that the Government are clear about how equipment and adaptations will be treated under the Bill. I hope that the Minister will agree not only that they should remain freely available but that they should not attract a charge by the back door when made the subject of a personal budget.
Amendment 89BA is a probing amendment to seek an assurance from the Minister that the provision in the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc) Act (Qualifying Services) (England) Regulations 2003, preventing local authorities charging for minor aids and adaptations under £1,000, will be maintained and to ask whether the £1,000 threshold, set 10 years ago, will be kept up to date.