Report (1st Day)

Care Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 3:54 pm on 9 October 2013.

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Votes in this debate

Clause 1: Promoting individual well-being

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State in making regulations or issuing guidance under this Part must have regard to the general duty of local authorities, in exercising a function under this Part in the case of an individual, to promote that individual’s well-being.”

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 3:55, 9 October 2013

My Lords, as this is the start of Report, I declare my interests as chair of an NHS Foundation Trust, a consultant and trainer with Cumberlege Connections, and president of GS1 UK.

I am sure that the House would wish me to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, on her appointment to the Government and to the health team as a government Whip, and to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for her services.

The Bill places a responsibility on local authorities to promote well-being in the way in which they implement the provisions of the Bill locally. However, if the Secretary of State were to issue regulations without regard to the promotion of well-being, there is a risk that such regulations—or indeed guidance—could conflict with that well-being principle. That would put local authorities in an impossible position. This matter was the subject of considerable discussion and report by the joint scrutiny committee and we also discussed it in Committee. The Government have now responded to the points put by many noble Lords and I welcome the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Howe. I also welcome Amendment 4, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Barker. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hamilton of Epsom Lord Hamilton of Epsom Conservative

My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, to add the words “and spiritual wellbeing”. This is an amendment that has been resisted in the past by my noble friend the Minister and I am somewhat confused as to why that should be. In 2002, the National Health Service was more than happy to add spiritual well-being as one of the conditions that should be applied to care that was given. I do not understand what has changed since. Has the NHS come to regret having these words in its remit? Does it find that spiritual wellbeing does not fit within the National Health Service today? Are people of faith who find that having an NHS that regards their spiritual well-being as important somehow more difficult to handle than atheists and people who have no faith at all? I should have almost thought that the reverse is true. When we come to what is euphemistically called end-of-life care, I should have thought that people of faith have something to look forward to, rather than atheists who, if they follow Richard Dawkins, are faced with a great black hole of oblivion. They might find that the end of life is rather more forbidding than do those who have faith.

I am very confused, therefore, as to why the Government find it necessary to resist this very minor and rather innocent amendment. It seems to merely add comfort to people of faith of all religions and could be inserted into this Bill without causing the Government any difficult whatever.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative 4:00, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I support what my noble friend has just said. I have to say to the Minister that this amendment is rather necessary because there is a generalised belief that forces in our society are determined to marginalise that which has actually made our society and has had such an influence on the provision of healthcare for our people. The history of healthcare in Britain shows that it was fundamentally founded by those of faith. That does not say anything about anyone else, but it does say that if we want holistic medicine—I am not a great believer in anything other than orthodox medicine, so I am not encouraging all kinds of what I consider to be alternatives, which are best left alone—we have to understand that it is about the whole person, and for many people this is a most important part of the whole person. For this not to be in the Bill will be seen by many as another example of society specifically seeking to marginalise an important section of our community on whom we depend widely for many of our voluntary activities, and certainly on whom we have depended and do depend for our health services. I hope very much that the Minister will take this point seriously.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative

My Lords, I would like very briefly to support what my two noble friends have just said. Surely this is not the Government conceding to a secular society and surely they recognise that for many sick people, the spiritual dimension is extremely important. It is not a question merely of healing physical ills and curing physical diseases, it is a question of recognising that many people, particularly as they near the end of their lives, have a great need to fall back upon their faith, and that should be recognised and encouraged. For the life of me, I cannot see what the Government are doing here and I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us a satisfactory answer. I am only sorry that the Bishops’ Benches appear to be empty this afternoon because one would have liked to have heard a contribution from them.

Photo of Lord Harries of Pentregarth Lord Harries of Pentregarth Crossbench

My Lords, as someone who remains a Bishop, on behalf of my old friends on the other side of the Chamber, I would like to support this amendment. As the Bishop of Oxford, I remember visiting one of the brand new universities, which thought of itself in very secular terms. Nevertheless, the university was adamant that it should have a chaplain because it believed in whole-person care, and an essential element of whole-person care was the spiritual dimension. We need to take that into account.

We also need to take into account the fact that we now live in a multifaith society, and for those of some religions in particular, it is very important that they have someone with religious authority in contact with them in the final stages of their life. There are good reasons for supporting this amendment.

Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I apologise for not being in my place for the start of this debate. As noble Lords will know, on these occasions such amendments are often tabled by myself and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. We do so because we support the right of Christian Scientists to have their beliefs respected, in particular their right to refuse treatment. That said, when we discussed this matter in Committee, while at that point the Minister was as sympathetic as always, he failed to draw a distinction that is important to people of faith, which is that between the use of the words “emotional” and “spiritual”. People of faith believe that matters which are spiritual are of a different order from those matters which are emotional. I have a degree of sympathy with their view. However, I also have a degree of sympathy with the Minister, who does not wish to put things into legislation that are unnecessary. I hope that he will, in this case, perhaps be a bit more sympathetic to the arguments that are being put forward.

The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, is right that as a society not only are we becoming much more diverse, but in our everyday life we understand the importance of faith and spiritual matters to other people. For example, we would not for a moment think it acceptable to present somebody with a diet that was not reflective of their cultural and religious beliefs. In our modern day health and social care services we are increasingly adept at recognising people’s differences and accommodating them. All told, this is a small amendment which costs nothing but means an awful lot. I hope that the Government will be able to take it on.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour

My Lords, as the chairman of the All-Party Group on Humanism, I am not sure that I should actually be following the previous speakers. However, Amendment 5 in this group is in my name and I want to be nice to the Minister instead of telling him off. The Minister has listened to the concerns that we expressed in Committee about applying the requirement to pursue the obligation on local authorities in Clause 1 to the Secretary of State in his actions, particularly regulations and guidance, to promote well-being.

I congratulate the Minister on listening to those concerns and tabling government Amendment 138, which effectively meets the concerns that we have. I suspect that my co-signatories, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, would say that the Minister’s amendment may not be quite as elegant as ours, but we are not going to have a competition about aesthetics; he has met the point and I thank him very much for what he has done.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

I warmly support that. I am happy with the parliamentary counsel’s draft, which is what the Government are going to move, and we have to understand that some lawyers are better than others at making drafts.

So far as the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, is concerned, I hope that the Government will pay considerable attention to what has been said about it.

Photo of Baroness Tyler of Enfield Baroness Tyler of Enfield Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I rise briefly to speak to government Amendment 2 on dignity and respect. I know that it was implicit in the well-being clause in the earlier versions of the Bill that we looked at, but I am very pleased that the need to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect has been brought out so explicitly. These are words that the man and woman in the street really understand; they get to the heart of some of the concerns about the type of social care that has sometimes been provided, which has fallen well below those standards, and caused some of the scare stories that we have heard so much about recently.

The noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and I raised this issue in Committee, but as he is unavoidably unable to be in his place today, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Howe, on behalf of both of us, for listening and for bringing this amendment forward.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and for the opportunity to discuss once again this important new well-being principle set out in Clause 1. The amendments in this group cover three important issues. The first of these relates to the application of the duty to promote well-being to the Secretary of State. In Committee we debated the link between the role of the Secretary of State and the duty of local authorities to promote the well-being of individuals. There was clear strength of feeling in the Committee that the Bill should make explicit reference to the Secretary of State having regard to the duty on the local authority to consider the well-being of the individual. An amendment in this regard is not essential because the local authority well-being duty is in any event a relevant factor for the Secretary of State to take into account when issuing guidance or regulations. However, I do recognise the strength of feeling and I am happy to clarify the position.

In response to the concerns, I have tabled Amendment 138, which explicitly requires the Secretary of State to have regard to the local authority well-being duty when issuing regulations and guidance. This achieves, I hope, the same ends as intended by the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Warner, and I trust that they will support the government amendment.

The second issue relates to the focus on dignity, to which my noble friend has just referred. In Committee, noble Lords expressed concern that personal dignity was not adequately reflected in the well-being principle, in spite of the change that the Government made to this effect following consultation on the draft care and support Bill. Let there be no doubt that the Government place the utmost importance on dignity and respect in care. These factors must be central to the well-being principle. In order to ensure that dignity is given due prominence in primary legislation, I am pleased to have been able to table Amendments 2 and 3, which give greater emphasis to personal dignity and respect as components of well-being.

The third issue in this group relates to another constituent part of individual well-being: spiritual well-being. My noble friend Lady Barker’s Amendment 4 would include an explicit reference to spiritual well-being in Clause 1(2). We debated a similar amendment in Committee. I said then, and I emphasise now, that the Government recognise the importance of spiritual well-being as a concept and understand the particular significance that it can have for some people, especially at the end of their life. We would absolutely not want an approach that excluded spiritual well-being from consideration where that was clearly of consequence to the individual concerned.

However, it is important to understand that that is not the approach which the Bill sets out. The factors included in Clause 1(2) contain high-level matters which should be interpreted broadly to fit the individual case. Spiritual well-being should be considered where it is relevant to the person’s overall well-being. Moreover, spiritual well-being is likely to be closely related to other matters, such as emotional well-being, which are listed in the clause.

In addition, local authorities must also consider the person’s views, wishes and feelings, as set out in Clause 1(3)(b). This provides a further clear direction to local authorities to have regard to personal matters, which could well include beliefs or other views that would promote an individual’s spiritual well-being. Although it is not explicitly mentioned, spiritual well-being is nevertheless accounted for.

I hope that I have reassured in particular my noble friends Lord Hamilton, Lord Deben and Lord Cormack, and indeed the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth—

Photo of Lord Hamilton of Epsom Lord Hamilton of Epsom Conservative

Will my noble friend explain why the NHS has actually changed its policy on this? In 2002, new Department of Health guidance on NHS chaplaincy said that all NHS trusts should make provision for the spiritual needs of all patients and staff from all faith communities. It strikes me that the NHS is now rowing back on a previous commitment.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

First, we are not dealing with the NHS; we are dealing with local authorities and adult social care. Secondly, the NHS has not rowed back on this. We have debated hospital chaplains on many occasions and I have made very clear the Government’s view that hospital chaplains perform an important role in the spiritual context. So on the NHS front, I want to reassure my noble friend that here we are dealing with local authorities and adult social care. I was trying to explain that the way in which this Bill is framed is perhaps different from how my noble friend has construed it.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

If it does not make any difference to add this to the Bill, why cannot the Government accept that many people would feel much reassured by its addition?

I have been in my noble friend’s position—and he knows with how much respect I view him—and I cannot remember an occasion when I have said, “This does not make any difference” that it did not quite mean that. What worries me here is that it does not quite mean that. I should be much happier if he would please look again at this, because it is a matter which does concern people. If it makes no difference, surely we can do these things in order that people should not be concerned? Their not being concerned would make a difference.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 4:15, 9 October 2013

If this is explicit for the National Health Service, why can local authorities not be treated in precisely the same way?

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour

I am trying to help the Minister. If he does agree to provide the assurances sought by noble Lords to look again, could he see whether if he moved in the direction they suggest, he would be discriminating against humanists?

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I can do no other than to look at this again, but I do want to reassure my noble friends that their concerns are groundless because of the way that this clause has deliberately been framed. It is framed in terms of high level principles. It is not designed to exclude any form of well-being whatever. It is designed to look at the person holistically and to ensure that no aspect of well-being is overlooked. I shall of course have a fresh look at this question, but I ask my noble friends, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, to understand that this clause has been framed in a particular way quite deliberately, not to exclude any form of well-being but to encapsulate all forms of well-being.

In other words, the provisions allow consideration of this and indeed many other matters where relevant. I hope that with these assurances the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment, and indeed to support the amendments which I have tabled.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, will respond to the point in relation to Amendment 4. Part of the confusion arises because the Department of Health seems to equate spiritual well-being with emotional well-being. I do not think that that would be generally held to be appropriate. Whether you have faith or none, it does seem to me that by classifying spiritual belief within emotional well-being, the department has fallen into a pit of its own digging. I hope the noble Earl will indeed go back, and I assume that means this could be debated at Third Reading. Clearly noble Lords would wish to come back to it.

Whether this is for the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, or for the noble Earl, taking up the point raised by my noble friend Lord Warner, the chairman of the All-Party Humanist Group, my assumption would be that the duty on a local authority in relation to spiritual well-being would apply only when a person had a belief. Whether one defines humanism as spiritual I do not know—we are getting into deep waters here. I assume it is not intended that a person of no religion be required to be treated by the health service or local government as having a spiritual need.

We welcome Amendments 2, 3 and 138, and I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendments 2 and 3

Moved by Earl Howe

2: Clause 1, page 1, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) personal dignity (including treatment of the individual with respect);”

3: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, leave out “, emotional well-being and personal dignity” and insert “and emotional well-being”

Amendments 2 and 3 agreed.

Amendments 4 and 5 not moved.

Amendment 6

Moved by Baroness Pitkeathley

6: Clause 1, page 2, line 34, at end insert—

“( ) For the purposes of this section, “an individual” includes a person with parental responsibility for a disabled child.”

Photo of Baroness Pitkeathley Baroness Pitkeathley Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

In the unavoidable absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and at her request, I shall move Amendment 6 and speak to Amendments 8 and 9 tabled in her name and mine, and speak to my Amendments 46, 47, 48 and 58.

The first group of amendments concerns parent carers. The Care Bill is drafted to apply only to adult carers of adults. This means that the new rights for carers included in the Bill will not apply to adults caring for disabled children or to children caring for disabled adults. The Government have committed to address this disparity for young carers by bringing forward very welcome changes in how they will join up this Bill and the Children and Families Bill to meet the needs of young carers and their families. This is extremely welcome, but it will leave parents of disabled children as the only group of carers whose rights to assessments and support will be left behind.

Carers UK and other carers organisations have been deeply disappointed that parent carers’ rights are not being given the same recognition as other carers’ rights and that the legislative technicality of their rights falling under the remit of children’s rather than adults’ legislation risks them being left with inferior rights. These amendments include parent carers in three key places in the Bill in order to probe the Government’s intentions regarding parents of disabled children and how they intend to address the disparity with the rights of parent carers. The Government have put forward an approach which joins up the Care Bill and the Children and Families Bill for young carers—which is very much to be welcomed and on which the Government are to be congratulated—and these amendments call for them to do the same for parents of disabled children. If nothing is done about this, parents of disabled children will be left with lesser and inconsistent rights to assessment and support. The rights of certain groups of carers will be left at different levels in different pieces of legislation, which will be confusing for many people, and parents of disabled children, who already have difficulty accessing support, will find it even harder to participate in work and their community in any way at all.

In this Bill, the Government are improving the rights of carers for adults by removing the need to provide regular and substantial care in order to receive an assessment, removing the need to request an assessment of their needs, placing a duty on local authorities to provide services to the carer following assessment when they meet the eligibility criteria, and introducing a new well-being principle. All this is very welcome, but parents of disabled children also need support. They have often struggled to establish rights as individuals on a par with other carers, and they are at particular risk of having their own rights overlooked as individuals. Too often, they are seen only as parents and their needs as carers are not identified or supported. This was summed up for me this weekend in a conversation I had with a parent carer known to me. He and his wife have been caring for their 30 year-old, very disabled son who is physically and mentally disabled. They have been caring for him for more than 30 years and have had the usual struggle in trying to find any support. When trying to access respite care when the wife, who has diabetes, was severely ill, they were told, “But you’re not carers. These rights don’t apply to you. You’re only parents”. They are not only parents. Normal parents do not have to look after their child and do everything for him for 30 years.

It is three times more costly to bring up a disabled child than a non-disabled child. Parent carers are more likely to be reliant on income-based state support, and 34% of sick or disabled children live in households where there is no adult in paid work. They are also more likely to suffer relationship breakdown and divorce, and they are three times more likely to suffer ill health and heath breakdown than parents of non-disabled children. They are also commonly very isolated and unable to get support that fits the whole family.

The Law Commission, I remind the House, recommended that existing duties to assess parent carers should be amended to make them consistent with the adult social care statute. The Government, I am afraid, have so far failed to act on this recommendation. I tabled similar amendments during the Committee stage of the Care Bill and the Minister responded. However, the Government’s response did not address the disparity that will arise for parent carers, who will have lesser rights to an assessment of their need for support and will not have the same rights to support services as other carers.

These amendments try to address that. In brief, they include parent carers in the well-being clause. The intention of the first amendment is to include the parents of disabled children in the duty placed on local authorities by Clause 1 to promote the well-being of individuals. They also want to prevent parent carers’ need for support arising in the first place. Too often parent carers reach crisis point, leading to high-cost interventions. In addition to the negative impact on outcomes for the whole family caused by mental or physical breakdown in the parent, relationship breakdown and unemployment, there are also substantial costs to local authorities, commissioners and indeed to the economy. The costs of mental ill health, as we all know, are rocketing. The cost of family breakdown is estimated to range from £20 billion to £40 billion every year.

The other amendment includes parent carers in the duty to make the assessment. The Bill is making it easier for adults to receive a carer’s assessment by creating an automatic right to one and removing the requirement that they provide regular and substantial care. When I see that in legislation I want to stand up and cheer. That is a great development. However, unless similar changes are brought forward for the parents of disabled children, they will still need to request a carer’s assessment from their local authority and do not have a right to one unless they are providing regular and substantial care. This disparity means that parent carers will be the only carers to have these additional barriers to support in front of them. This amendment seeks to include parents of disabled children in the duty on local authorities in the Care Bill to assess carers, which creates a lower bar to assessment than the current legislation.

I hope that the Minister will look favourably on these amendments. Will the Government give assurances that parents of disabled children will not be left with lesser rights? How will the Government ensure parity of rights for parents of disabled children and how will the Government act to join together the Care Bill and the Children and Families Bill—being considered in the Moses Room as we speak—to ensure that the families of disabled children are able to access support? Will the Minister commit to working with the Children’s Minister to ensure that the rights of parent carers are not left behind? Will the Minister assure me that, having worked so effectively with the Department for Education to strengthen the rights for young carers, he will do so again to strengthen the rights of families with disabled children?

My Amendments 46 to 48 and 58 are about charging for carers’ services. They are supported by Carers UK and the Carers Trust. The current law includes the power to charge for meeting the needs of carers but very few local authorities use this power. As well as continuing to give local authorities the power to charge carers, the Bill includes a power to charge carers for arranging services for them. Local authority adult and social care budgets are under ever-increasing pressure and we must be concerned that carers may be looked to as a source of revenue. Carers already contribute a huge amount, often at great personal cost, as caring has a negative impact on their finances, health and well-being, and opportunities to engage in work and education. I make no apology for repeating the figure that I have quoted many times in your Lordships’ House—Carers UK has calculated that the contribution of carers is worth £119 billion a year in savings to the Exchequer. Charging a carer for support to meet their needs, often in order to help them continue in caring, risks being counterproductive by preventing carers accessing services and may even discourage carers seeking support. As a result, the adoption of charging policies would result in additional costs to local authorities.

Carers and the person or people they are looking after—we should remember that many carers look after more than one person—may not have the same income. In many cases, carers have had to give up work or live on a reduced income as a direct result of their caring responsibilities. They may not have access to the same income that enables the person they care for to self-fund their care and support. The cost of supporting individual carers is frequently minimal but the financial benefit to local authorities can be significant. The Government have identified that carers are the first line of prevention, and that properly identifying and supporting carers will prevent escalation of demand on statutory services. The Government’s own impact assessment of the Care Bill set out evidence on the cost-effectiveness of supporting carers: for example, by preventing or delaying hospital or residential care admission; by sustaining the caring role; by improving the health and well-being of carers; and by assisting carers to remain in or return to work.

A number of local authorities have individually examined the value of their care and support services and have concluded that supporting carers is very cost effective. Surrey County Council, for example, did a cost-modelling exercise which concluded that supporting carers helps prevent breakdown of caring situations, provides help in a manner that many families appreciate and avoids far greater costs for the provision of more expensive and intrusive care packages. This was also the conclusion of Herefordshire County Council, which recently reversed its decision to charge for carer services. It found that charging would risk increased pressure on social care budgets and that no additional income would be raised by the council because of carers’ low income. No advantage could be gained because of the negative effects of charging. I should declare an interest as patron of Herefordshire Carers Support, but I am sure that that had nothing at all to do with the decision not to charge carers.

I must also mention carers and the care account. Unlike for older and disabled people, the cost of services for carers will not accrue towards a care account. This means that, unlike disabled or older people, any services which carers pay for themselves, or which they are given through public services if they are deemed eligible, will not count towards the care account. In the care account model, any unpaid support that a carer provides for eligible needs will reduce the amount that the public will have had to contribute towards the capped-costs model. In other words, a carer’s contribution is counted several times over, yet they themselves may have to make increasing financial contributions which would not go towards their own care account for the future. There is nothing in the capped-costs model which recognises the contribution of carers and many carers will feel that it is unfair that they provide unpaid care and must pay for support which enables them to continue to do so. By any judgment, that is unfair.

The simplest way to resolve the issue of the care account not applying to carers is to remove charging for carer services completely. A care account for carers would be a hugely complex exercise in any case, and it would arguably be easier at this stage simply to protect carers from being charged for services. What is the Government’s rationale for leaving carers out of the care account? Do the Government agree that it would be far easier and more equitable if the Government removed charging for carers altogether?

Finally, I turn to Amendment 48; I apologise for delaying the House with all these amendments, but I might as well speak to them while I am on my feet. Amendment 48 is about services of an intimate nature which can only be provided to the disabled person. We considered this in Committee. There is no clarity in the Bill about what a disabled person’s service is and what a carer’s service is, which will lead to confused decision-making and carers being increasingly, or wrongly, charged for services. Under the current legislation—the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000, which I had the honour of taking through your Lordships’ House—services provided to the disabled person in order to meet the needs of the carer cannot include services for the disabled person that are of an “intimate nature”. This ensures that disabled people keep control of their own services while protecting carers from being charged for services. This is a vital protection which is critical for carers. This amendment seeks to reintroduce this wording into the Bill with several clear purposes. The first is to ensure that disabled people will keep control of personal services. The second is to ensure that decision-making is made clearer for front-line professionals. The third is to protect carers from increasingly being charged for services.

Currently, the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 specifies that services provided to the disabled person in order to meet the needs of the carer cannot include services “of an intimate nature”. The Bill, as we know, introduces new rights to assessment for carers; new duties to provide services to carers following assessment; and the power to charge for services to carers that are provided to them and to charge for arranging these services. Disabled people can be charged for services provided them, including if the services meet the needs of carers, but currently there is no definition of whom a service belongs to. This was a recommendation in the Joint Committee’s report when we scrutinised the draft care and support Bill: that the Government protect carers from being wrongly charged by including the wording at Clause 14.

This wording is very welcome because it prevents wrongful charging, but the Bill still leaves wide open the issue of how a practitioner decides to whom the service is provided and thus potentially charged. The new wording of the Bill opens up the possibility, I fear, that intimate care services for a disabled person could be provided to the carer and a whole new scale of charging developed. I do not believe that that was the Government’s intention when they changed the wording of the Bill, so that the definition of intimate care should be retained, with more detailed guidance to assist local authorities and carer centres in using the legislation. The reason this clarification matters even further is because of what I referred to earlier about the care account. There will be negative consequences if further clarity is not provided so I very much hope that the Minister will accept this and my other amendments and I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Wheeler Baroness Wheeler Opposition Whip (Lords) 4:30, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I am pleased to speak to our Amendments 7 and 10 and will speak mainly about young carers, as my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley has spoken strongly on parent-carers for disabled children and the other key issues covered in this group. In Committee, we were deeply concerned at the very real danger and risk of young carers’ rights and their need for support failing to be addressed in either the Bill or the Children and Families Bill, so it is with great relief that we will be dealing today, now and later, with significant amendments relating to adult care assessments and young carers, local authorities’ duties to identify young carers and ensuring young carers are supported and are not forced to undertake inappropriate caring roles.

On young carers, it is somewhat frustrating that the Government amendments, which are an integral part of the package on young carers that locks in the links between the Bill and the Children and Families Bill, are to be taken in a later group. We need to see the picture on young carers as a whole to be reassured and clear about how the two Bills interact to secure young carers’ rights on support and assessment. Under the two Bills, the Care Bill links adult assessment where a young carer is supporting an adult with the young carer’s assessment, which will be undertaken under the Children and Families Bill. The ministerial Statement on the latter from the Department of Education sets out how it sees this working in practice, and we broadly support this. Our Front-Bench team on the Bill will be probing this further in Committee, which, of course, commences today.

We welcome all these developments. We have worked closely with the excellent National Young Carers Coalition and it has led calls for key changes in the two Bills. I am sure the Minister will agree that the NYCC has done a great job of bringing the plight of young carers to the attention of the House and to Ministers. I am pleased that the Government have now taken steps to ensure a twin-track, joined-up approach between the two Bills.

As the Bill has progressed, we have heard extensively why children and young people caring for a family member, parent or sibling can be so vulnerable to losing out on their education and on the things that they want to do with their lives and how their health can suffer as a result of having to undertake significant caring responsibilities. However, it is a shocking fact that too often young carers do not get the help they need. One of the reasons for this is that, under the current assessment process, the person they are caring for does not receive enough support and the needs of the whole family are often not taken into consideration.

We must remember that this can have a devastating impact on both the young carers and the cared-for person. As a trustee of our local carer support group in Elmbridge, I can say that we see this from both ends. Many of our registered young carers are delivering hands-on support and may be the only other person in the house. For example, if their parent has mental health problems—very often the most hidden of caring roles—the child may have to look after themselves on a daily basis, make their own meals and get off to school, as well as being supportive of the parent and carrying out tasks for them. At the same time, a disabled parent does not want to see their child overburdened with caring duties; they feel desperate and guilty when they require care and support that is not forthcoming as part of the care package, and the child just has to help—and usually wants to anyway. That is a dilemma.

That is why we sought to amend the Bill in Committee so that adults with care and support needs are assessed in relation to the presence of a young carer, so adult needs are met sufficiently and children are prevented from undertaking levels of caring that put their well-being, health and development at risk. The government amendments now put this into effect in the Bill and we fully endorse them as part of the package of changes that are needed.

That is also why our Amendment 7 to Clause 2 must be an important part of the package. We believe that the Care Bill is the right place for the law to be clear that adult services need to assess and meet adult needs first, but with a view to whether a child may be caring for them and providing the support as required. Children should not be picking up the pieces and left to provide part of the care package as a result of the failure of adult services to see and support them alongside children’s services.

Our essential aim has been to ensure that local authorities provide or arrange services to prevent young carers from developing needs for care and support, as well as preventing and reducing needs for adults and adult carers. We cannot have a situation where people have unmet care and support needs, which results in children and young people having to meet those needs.

Our Amendment 10 specifically deals with the issue of local authorities’ duty to identify young carers. We know that currently, adult social care services and health services routinely fail to identify children who may be caring for an adult, even when the adult is assessed, and that also applies to schools. As a result, children can continue to undertake harmful caring roles and end up developing needs for care and support themselves. The lack of a co-ordinated response between children’s and adult services remains an ongoing difficulty for young carers and their families. I hope that the noble Earl will recognise the need to address this problem.

On the other amendments in the group, we strongly support the intentions of Amendments 6, 8 and 9, which seek to emphasise parent carers of disabled children, both in respect of the well-being principle and in terms of preventing them undertaking inappropriate caring. Amendments 46, 47 and 58, in the name of my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley, seek to address the very real fears of carers and their organisations over carers being charged for key services that they are not currently charged for. My noble friend’s amendments represent an excellent opportunity to put carers’ minds at rest on this issue once and for all, and I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to this.

Finally, my noble friend’s Amendment 48 addresses the important issue of carers generally—not just young carers—being required to undertake inappropriate caring. We dealt with this issue in relation to the assessment process extensively in Committee and we strongly support this amendment. Support from family and carers should be considered as a way of meeting needs rather than as a reason for deciding that the person does not have needs or is not eligible for care. Carers must not be pressurised to provide care that they do not feel able to provide. I look forward to the Minister’s response on this.

Photo of Baroness Tyler of Enfield Baroness Tyler of Enfield Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I rise very briefly to speak to Amendment 34 in my name. The purpose of this amendment relates to the definition of a carer, to ensure that it could include a young person as well as an adult. I wish to explain that I tabled the amendment before the extremely welcome Statement by the Secretary of State for Education earlier in the week, and the tabling of the new amendments on young carers. As other noble Lords said today in the Chamber, I very strongly welcome this. I know, from talking to both departments—the Department for Education and the Department of Health—that a lot of very effective work has gone on over the summer that has been very effective both at official and ministerial levels. I also very much welcome the fact that the National Young Carers Coalition has been very much involved in these changes, and I know that it has issued a statement welcoming them.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 4:45, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I particularly support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley. It is obviously important that the situation regarding children who are carers is properly focused. As your Lordships know, I am a vice-president of the Carers Trust and have an interest from that point of view. I have difficulty understanding exactly the scope of the clauses here, because the clause dealing with well-being talks about the “individual”. I assume that this includes the disabled child as well as the carer, and that the same is true even when the child is not disabled. If one has a carer, the child will be an “individual”, I assume. The adult definition comes in the next clause, Clause 2. Clause 1 refers to an “individual”, so I assume that children are included in that clause and therefore that the local authority, in performing its functions, has an obligation to have regard to the well-being of children.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Tyler said, Amendments 7, 10 and 34 in this group about young carers provide an opportunity within our debates to welcome the Written Ministerial Statement yesterday from my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education about the Government’s proposed amendments to the Children and Families Bill on the assessment of young carers. They give effect to the Government’s stated intentions to consolidate and simplify legislation relating to young carers’ assessments, making rights and duties clearer to both young people and practitioners. In the Government’s view, these provisions sit most appropriately within children’s legislation.

The right to an assessment of needs would be extended to all young carers under the age of 18, regardless of who they care for, what type of care they provide or how often they provide it. Local authorities would have to carry out an assessment of a young carer’s needs for support on request or on the appearance of need. The amendments also enable local authorities to align the assessment of a young carer with an assessment of an adult that they care for.

I believe that the government amendment will achieve the desired effect of my noble friend Lady Tyler’s amendment to Clause 10 by putting a young carer’s entitlement to an assessment on a similar footing to the provisions in the Care Bill for an adult carer’s assessment. I have also tabled an amendment to Clause 12 of the Care Bill, which we will debate shortly, that makes it clear that a local authority may combine an adult assessment with a child’s assessment, including a young carer’s assessment, provided all parties agree. The government amendment to the Children and Families Bill will also achieve the desired effect of Amendment 10 by requiring local authorities to take steps to identify the extent to which there are young carers within their area who have needs for support.

Amendment 7 would extend to young carers provisions in Clause 2 that require a local authority to provide services, facilities and resources to prevent or reduce needs for support among adult carers. Prevention is an important matter to highlight, but the Bill already makes sufficient provision on this issue, as it requires local authorities to have regard to overall family circumstances when fulfilling their duties under the Bill.

Clause 1 requires local authorities to promote an individual’s well-being in exercising all their Part 1 functions, including those in Clause 2. Domestic, family and personal relationships are specifically included, and such relationships could encompass parenting responsibilities, the adequate functioning of the family and the household and the impact of providing care and support on other members of the family. We do not think that it would be appropriate to refer to preventing the needs of young carers specifically. One means of preventing their needs will be, of course, to meet or delay the needs of those whom they care for, and this is clearly covered by the existing provision. There may be other means, which could include the provision of services directly to the young carer. However, such routes would not be appropriate for adult care and support to take, and we do not believe that a duty should sit within adult legislation.

We will make it clear in statutory guidance that all these provisions should take into consideration family relationships and circumstances, and I am happy to make a commitment that such guidance will refer specifically to the importance of preventing children undertaking inappropriate or excessive caring responsibilities. In addition, in drafting regulations about an adult’s assessment under the regulation-making powers in Clause 12, we will make it clear that a whole-family approach should be adopted, where appropriate. An adult’s assessment should then take into account the functioning of the family and the household, and the impact of providing care and support on other members of the family, including children.

I turn to the position of those with parental responsibilities for disabled children, which is an important issue. However, we do not consider it appropriate to include provisions within the Care Bill about the assessment of parent carers of disabled children, as proposed in Amendments 6, 8, 9 and 35 from the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley. In the Government’s view, the main provision for assessing and supporting those caring for disabled children should be in children’s legislation, so that the family’s need for support can be looked at holistically. In most cases, the best way of supporting a parent carer of a disabled child and other members of the family is by the provision of support directly to the child concerned. It would not be appropriate for adult care and support to be undertaking an assessment of those needs, when adult support is not best placed to meet them. The view of the Minister for Children and Families is that there is already sufficient provision under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to provide for the assessment and support of children in need, including disabled children and their parents.

I turn to Amendments 46 and 58 from the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, about charging carers for support. We remain of the view that local authorities should retain the power that they have now to charge carers for support provided directly to them. Many local authorities do not impose charges on carers because they, of course, recognise the valuable contribution that carers make to society. However, some may choose to impose a nominal fee to cover a proportion of the costs of providing a particular form of support for carers—for example, a relaxation class or gym membership—and we do not think it appropriate to remove that discretion and flexibility. Indeed, removing the ability to charge even a small amount could result in the withdrawal of such services altogether.

The noble Baroness argued that the cost of caring should not count towards the care account within the cap arrangement. Local authority assessments take the support provided by carers into account in determining the care package. We are clear that the care package should count towards the cap, because that should ensure that all people receive the support that they need. We have heard from the care and support sector that the cap will provide carers, as well as care users, with the financial support to help them decide on the right care for them to help provide, and to reassure them that their families will not face catastrophic care costs.

I have some concern about the noble Baroness’s Amendment 48, which proposes that the provision of intimate services to a person needing care cannot be provided to meet a carer’s need for support. This would create a legal barrier that could significantly hinder the provision of a much-needed type of support to carers. Let me provide one example. It may be appropriate to meet a carer’s needs by providing a service direct to the person cared for. If some type of replacement care is provided to allow the carer to take a break from caring, it may look like home care delivered to the adult needing care, even though it is provided to meet a carer’s needs. The amendment would seriously limit the ability of local authorities to make such arrangements because it would provide that the care workers could carry out some activities, but not others of an “intimate nature”. That could leave a situation where the care worker was able to sit with an adult needing care but not take them to the toilet. That is likely to lead only to confusion, I suggest. We accept that clarity is needed about when a type of support should be considered to be provided directly to the carer, and when to the adult needing care. We will produce guidance on this matter, but we cannot support an amendment that sets such an inflexible rule in primary legislation.

I also reassure noble Lords that the Bill is already very clear that carers should not be charged for any form of support that is provided directly to the person needing care. Clause 14(3) makes it absolutely clear that local authorities cannot charge carers for services provided to the person being cared for. This would include services of an intimate nature.

I hope that I have reassured noble Lords that, together, the Care Bill and the Children and Families Bill provide a clear legislative framework to support local authorities to consider the needs of young carers and protect them from excessive or inappropriate caring roles. On the important issue of assessing those with parental responsibility for disabled children, we remain of the view that they are best supported through the provisions of the Children Act 1989. However, I have noted the concerns raised about those who care for disabled children having the same entitlement to a carer’s assessment as young carers and adults caring for adults will have through the respective provisions of the Children and Families Bill and the Care Bill. Department of Health officials will explore further, with officials at the Department for Education, the issues raised by the noble Baroness. I know that my noble friend Lord Nash is always willing to listen to the concerns of noble Lords on these and other matters.

I hope that I have also reassured noble Lords that the Bill is already very clear that carers should not be charged for support provided directly to the person needing care. However, I am conscious that I have not directly answered an issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, about the need for identification of carers to ensure that there is no unmet need. It is important to support people to identify themselves as carers so that they can access information, advice and support in their caring role. My department is funding the Royal College of General Practitioners to raise awareness among health professionals. Health and well-being boards should also be identifying the numbers of carers in their local population through joint strategic needs assessments.

My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay asked whether children were already covered in the scope of Clause 1. They are covered in terms of the functions set out in Part 1 of the Care Bill. The local authority must have regard to the well-being principle in discharging any function under Part 1 that relates to children. They would be “individuals” in the case of the exercise of that function—for example, in the provisions relating to the assessment of children in anticipation of their transition to adulthood. I hope that that is helpful.

I have taken a little while to reply to these amendments, but I hope that I have been sufficiently illuminating to encourage noble Lords not to press them.

Photo of Baroness Pitkeathley Baroness Pitkeathley Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

As we were on a roll there with the Department of Health and the Department for Education working together so successfully on the young carers issue, I rather hoped that we might do it also with regard to parent carers. I am very grateful that the Minister has not entirely closed the door on that. I will read very carefully what he said, but I reserve the right to come back to this issue at Third Reading. I am very encouraged by what he said about taking a whole-family approach, but I believe that it should include parent carers as well as young carers. I am grateful to him, too, for saying that there would be more clarity in guidance about the charging issues. As I said, I will read what he said very carefully, but I reserve the right to bring some of these issues back at Third Reading. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 6 withdrawn.

Clause 2: Preventing needs for care and support

Amendments 7 to 10 not moved.

Clause 3: Promoting integration of care and support with health services etc.

Amendment 11

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

11: Clause 3, page 4, line 3, at end insert—

“( ) NHS bodies must exercise their functions—

(a) with a view to ensuring the integration of services for the purposes of enhancing the health and well-being of people, in keeping with the duty on Health and Wellbeing Boards enshrined in section 195 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012; and

(b) without hindering the efforts of a local authority to fulfill its duty under subsection (1) above.”

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 5:00, 9 October 2013

My Lords, in moving Amendment 11, I wish to speak also to Amendment 30. I also support the amendments in this group tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best, but may respond to those later.

In Committee, we debated amendments promoting further integration of health and social care. As my noble friend Lady Wheeler said, we supported the view of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Local Government Association that the Bill should include a specific duty on NHS bodies equivalent to the duty on local authorities to integrate services and that this shared involvement should be enshrined in the Bill. Joint strategic needs assessments and joint health and well-being strategies should provide a strategic overview of how the health and well-being of local communities can be improved and health inequalities reduced. ADASS has long maintained that local health and well-being boards are pivotal in the delivery model in this respect and that the Bill must reflect this to bring about a wholly integrated accountable system that meets identified local needs and objectives.

The noble Earl, Lord Howe, said in Committee that he had no argument with the sentiments expressed by my noble friend and relied on Clauses 3 and 6 of the Bill and various other pieces of legislation, including Section 116 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act, which requires local authorities and clinical commissioning groups to have regard to the relevant joint strategic needs assessment and joint health and well-being strategy in exercising any of their functions, which would include their duty to co-operate and promote integration. The noble Earl also prayed in aid the prominence of health and well-being boards being strengthened through their role in signing off joint plans required as part of the £3.8 billion pooled fund between local authorities and the NHS to support joined-up and integrated working.

I certainly accept and understand those points but I would like us to go further. I argue that the measure should be much more explicit in the Bill in relation to the National Health Service’s duty of co-operation. We know that the current crisis in accident and emergency services which seems to be extending through the early autumn period is symptomatic of a health and social care system that is under huge pressure. If reductions in social care funding and support for the third sector mean that patients cannot be discharged from hospital that has a knock-on impact throughout the whole system. This Bill places major responsibilities on local authorities. Without the full co-operation of the National Health Service they will be very hard pressed to discharge those responsibilities.

The noble Earl is relying on this Bill and existing legislation but the fact is that so far this has not been sufficient. I refer him to a report published today by the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council entitled Turning the Welfare State Upside Down? The report says that our social care system is broken and increasingly unfit for purpose and that we need a big and bold response to tackle the crisis and ensure a decent and fair system for the future. The report is right to emphasise the need for close co-operation between social care and the NHS and to shape services around the needs of the individual. The problem is that the Government through their 2012 Act have created a disintegrated system instead of an integrated one and a system where fragmentation is rejoiced at and where the operation of a market is meant to drive a wedge between people who ought to be co-operating together.

I do not want to go back over this afternoon’s Oral Question, but clinical commissioning groups would have been surprised to hear the noble Earl suggest that it was entirely up to them whether or not services were put out to tender. They have been absolutely pressurised by NHS England to do that. NHS England is clearly under the direction of the Secretary of State: how could it not be when, according to government briefings over the last two weeks, the appointment of its chief executive is going to be the Prime Minister’s decision?

There is real concern that we have conjured up a very fragmented sector. As the noble Earl knows, we already have a system where physical health, mental health and social care have found it very difficult to integrate their services. As we have more older people with vulnerabilities and co-morbidities, the need for the systems to work together becomes ever more paramount.

Amendment 11 would put in the Bill an explicit requirement for the NHS, through the health and well-being boards, to play its full part in the integration of services. In Committee, the noble Earl was sympathetic to these sentiments but not to the amendment. I hope that, in the spirit of accepting wise words in this House, he will be prepared to be more sympathetic on this occasion. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench

My Lords, I rise to speak to the two amendments in my name and in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Eaton and Lady Barker. These amendments are carried forward from five which I tabled in Committee, all of which sought to give more prominence in the Bill to housing. I declare my interest as chairman of the Hanover Housing Association, which works exclusively for older people, and as president of the Local Government Association.

The overarching case for these amendments is that everyone's care needs are inseparably connected to the place where they live and where, for most older people, they spend all their time. The right accommodation can sustain our independence and well-being even if we face the illnesses or long-term conditions that afflict many of us in older age. The right accommodation can pre-empt and prevent the need for domiciliary and residential care and hugely reduce costs to the NHS and local authority social services. For younger adults with care needs, the right accommodation can enable a fulfilling life within the community, not hidden away in an institutional setting. The wrong accommodation can cause accidents and, indeed, mental health problems; keep people in hospital because their home will not have them back; and can force people into costly residential care.

This Bill is the chance to incorporate housing into the health and care equation so that these three interlinked dimensions can really work together. The noble Earl has worked hard over the recess to bring back improvements to the Bill. In relation to the housing issues, the noble Earl has noted that our concerns are shared by a number of Peers who feel that the Bill gives insufficient emphasis to the question of housing. He fully accepts the integral role of housing in helping meet care and support needs, and has told us that he sympathises with the arguments he has heard. I am very grateful to the noble Earl for the two amendments he has tabled to give greater prominence to the link between health, social care and housing. His response will be greatly welcomed by the Care and Support Alliance and, within that group, the National Housing Federation, which drafted the original amendments.

Government Amendment 28 to Clause 6 extends the duty of local authorities to co-operate with partners so that this duty will encompass housing associations—registered providers of social housing—which is a very significant step in absolutely the right direction. Government Amendment 12 to Clause 3 ensures that, in terms of the integration of services, housing will be classified as “health related” and will therefore be taken on board by clinical commissioning groups and the NHS Commissioning Board, NHS England. Both these changes are really positive and I congratulate the noble Earl for his farsightedness, once again, in improving the Bill in these two ways.

At the risk of appearing slightly churlish, however, perhaps I could press the noble Earl on the two issues that remain outstanding and are covered by the two amendments in my name, which have support from all parts of the House. In relation to advice, Amendment 15 to Clause 4 would ensure that people have access to good information on the options available to them in relation to housing requirements, spelling out both ways in which their current home could be made more suitable and the choices that they could make about a move to supported or retirement accommodation, such as assisted living and extra care housing.

Although the Bill ensures that advice on care services will be made available, the Joint Committee on the draft Bill strongly recommended that advice on housing options also be included. So far, this recommendation has not been taken on board. It is not an onerous extra requirement to include housing advice in the mix, particularly given that many local authorities already ensure that people get this advice. Indeed, the Local Government Association supports this amendment. The Minister pointed out in Committee that information and advice on specialist housing options should be included when housing information is supplied. This amendment adds the prompt for such housing advice also to be included when guidance is given on care matters.

A move to a more suitable place can be suggested for a younger adult with care requirements. Sources of support for helping an older person to downsize, perhaps in decluttering the attic or sorting out the garden shed, can be recommended. For those who stay put, there is often so much to be done of a practical nature in making life easier for an older person and reducing their dependency on paid carers or family carers. From replacing hard-to-turn taps with long-handle lever taps for someone with arthritic hands, or fitting firm banister rails to the stairs, right through to converting the bathroom to fit a walk-in shower or installing a stair lift, all such adaptations can delay or prevent the need for more intrusive and expensive care provision. With good advice, paying for those adaptations can be covered by disabled facilities grants or equity loans, just as advice for a younger adult with care needs can be given on how the costs of renting a more suitable home can be covered.

Last Friday, I had the great pleasure of visiting the brilliant Centre for Independent Living in Knowsley, jointly funded and staffed by the health, social care and housing services in this borough. The centre brings together all the key elements of a truly holistic service. The occupational therapists are there, as are the care and repair team who can organise reliable builders and advise on grants, the wheelchair and aids teams, and the handy persons who do small improvement jobs. All the different disciplines and specialisms come together in Knowsley’s centre. It helped some 5,700 people last year. About half were referred by GPs, and health needs are therefore often the trigger, but the solution may well be in meeting the individual’s requirements within their home or, indeed, in pursuing a housing solution elsewhere, such as a move to extra care. So when a local authority gets it right, as in Knowsley, it really can do a fantastic, joined-up health, care and housing job. Good advice that covers the housing dimensions is the start of this process.

Amendment 23, the second amendment in my name and those of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Eaton and Lady Barker, would complete the picture. This amendment again does not add significantly to the burden of responsibilities for local authorities. It falls within the “have regard to”, not the “must”, part of Clause 5, but would mean that in seeking to manage the market for care provision, local authorities should have regard to the housing situation facing those with care needs in their area. It raises the profile of housing in this context so that the different parts of local government all take it into account in their policies and strategies.

The amendment would mean that those within local councils responsible for social care would concern themselves with housing requirements, no doubt by feeding the necessary information into the planning system to influence future housing provision. In devising their strategies, health and well-being boards would consider whether more and better housing should be a priority, whether more disabled facilities grants or support for home improvements could play a greater part in preventing the need for intensive personal care, or whether extending a handy person service would not pay for itself almost instantly. This amendment would mean integrating housing considerations into the shaping of care markets, as well as integrating care considerations into the shaping of housing markets. That would benefit everyone.

I congratulate the Minister on the two important government amendments which give added emphasis to housing. I hope that he is able to go further and take on board these relatively modest but entirely sensible additional changes to the Bill.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Liberal Democrat 5:15, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I rise to support Amendments 15 and 23. I would draw attention to a welcome tribunal judgment in Middlesbrough last week concerning the decision by Redcar and Cleveland Council on the under-occupancy charge. A woman, who is disabled, won an appeal against the decision of her local council which the council claims it took in line with DWP guidance. The tribunal concluded:

“In considering whether there is under-occupation of the appellant’s property, the local authority have not taken into consideration her disabilities and her reasonable requirements, as a result of these, to sleep in a bedroom of her own”.

Redcar and Cleveland Council said that it had properly applied the law as it stood when it decided this case but that the tribunal had introduced an additional test of reasonableness which did not appear in the Department for Work and Pensions guidance. Amendments 15 and 23 would remove a great deal of the doubt that has now been raised. Amendment 23, which refers to access to suitable living accommodation, must include access to suitable sleeping accommodation. That requires there to be a separate bedroom if reasonably required.

Amendment 23 would also make it clear that there is a requirement on a local authority to provide access to suitable living accommodation for a person who needs a specific amount of accommodation to enable them to lead a full life.

There is now a great danger for the Government in a large number of tribunal hearings as a consequence of the decision that was made in Middlesbrough last week. One way of avoiding this is for the Government to give a clearer definition of what “reasonableness” is. Amendments 15 and 23 define what is reasonable. I hope that the Minister will agree to look further at this issue in order to ensure that adults who have care and support needs have access to suitable living accommodation. That is clearly not the case at present and it is unfortunate that a large number of people with disabilities are being placed in an impossible situation because of the under-occupancy tax.

Photo of Baroness Eaton Baroness Eaton Conservative

My Lords, I rise to support Amendments 15 and 23 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best. Contemplating the need for changes in lifestyle, managing illness and losing the ability to live independently are very daunting and stressful experiences for many elderly people. The proposals in Clause 4 for local authorities to provide information and advice are crucial in enabling people to have the knowledge they need to make decisions with which they feel comfortable. It does seem that the Bill as drafted has a major omission—the absence of advice on housing options.

I worked as a councillor in a northern metropolitan area for many years. I noticed on many occasions that elderly people were totally unaware of some of the opportunities that were available to protect them. I will give the House one example. An elderly lady asked whether I could help her by getting the electricity board to repair the light on the other side of the footpath across her garden. When I pursued the case, it transpired that because this lady was physically infirm, she was unable to reach her bathroom and lavatory, so she was crossing her garden in the depths of winter to use an outside lavatory. The reason she needed the light was in order to get to it. She was totally unaware of the possibility of making adaptations, with help from the local authority, to provide her with a downstairs bathroom. These kinds of incidents reflect the reality of what elderly people know about in terms of services. It is not good enough to say, “They will find out about them somewhere”. If it was part of this provision, that would be a great advantage to all.

My elderly parents lived at home until they were in their 90s. My father was 96 when he died, and my mother was 95. They were fortunate because I was aware of the adaptations that could be provided for them—small things such as grips, handrails and the like. They enabled my father to cope with the infirmities of my mother and for the two of them together to enjoy independent living. But, as I have said, most elderly people are not aware of this provision. When looking at options for care, most people would not think of asking the local authority about housing options. As a local authority person, I am always cautious of giving extra tasks to local authorities, but I know that this part of the Bill would not create a huge burden because local authorities already provide information about the care-related housing options that are available in their area. The point is that those options are not joined up and they do not come under the provision that this clause as drafted would give. I strongly support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Best.

The issue of the shaping of markets under Clause 23 is also important. We are always in danger of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Criticism is made of departments doing one thing on the one hand and another thing on the other. There is now a requirement on planners to look ahead and make provision for the numbers and types of homes that are needed. Surely the two things should be brought together as indicated and that health provision should advise and direct the planning process in terms of what will be needed in the future. I warmly support both amendments.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, I apologise for having only just come into the Chamber, but I have been at an important meeting with representatives from a children’s heart unit. However, this Bill is also important, particularly these amendments. What the Minister gives us assurances about in this House does not always happen on the ground. The matter of housing provision for disabled people has caused aggro up and down the country. People are worried about it. If the Minister can be helpful today, that will do a lot of good.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Best, in relation to Amendments 15 and 23. Obviously, we welcome the government amendments to which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, will speak shortly, but it seems that the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best, point to areas where the government amendments do not really meet the needs. Amendment 15, on making available information about housing adaptations and on specialist and accessible housing as a key requirement of a local authority’s information service, was a clear recommendation of the Joint Committee. The noble Baroness has just illustrated why making such information available is so important. It could be very helpful in terms of avoiding the need for people to receive long-term care. We should not underestimate the challenge people face when simply trying to find their way through the system. We find it complex, so how much more difficult must it be for those with little experience of the care sector and the housing system? I believe that Amendment 23 is critical to the success of the Government’s own housing amendment. It would ensure a three-way integration that would be an explicit part of a local authority’s duty to promote efficient and effective local markets for meeting care and support. It would particularly ensure that it has regard to the importance of adults’ access to suitable living accommodation.

We know that many local authorities are doing this without any prompting from the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, or my noble friend Lord Beecham. I recently came across the housing for an age-friendly city programme. It seemed to be a really good illustration of how, if a recognition of the changing needs and support of older people is at your core, and you supply a range of care and support housing options as an alternative to residential care, it makes the essential connection between, for example, managing a long-term illness and living in the right accommodation, and the importance of extra care housing schemes that enable people to live independently for longer.

I also just came across a One Housing Group initiative in Islington. It is a scheme designed for 14 people who spend a maximum of 14 days in the centre as an alternative to acute NHS admissions. It has a drop-in centre and an emergency helpline, and this crisis recovery house helps 550 people a year. It keeps 87% out of hospital admissions. It was commissioned by the health service but it shows the interconnection between housing and health.

In responding to the noble Lord, Lord Best’s amendments, I hope that the Government might be prepared to reconsider this and come back at Third Reading with further amendments.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour

My Lords, I am sorry that I missed the beginning of this debate but I was with the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, listening to Sir Bruce Keogh explaining how the mess around paediatric surgery was going to be sorted out.

I lend my support to Amendments 11 and 15. I remind the House that many years ago, in the good old days, housing and health were together in the same ministry; there was a united ministry covering both health and housing. We have lost something by that separation. I think that the NHS needs to be given a push on integration, so I very much like the amendment of my noble friend. Too often the NHS forgets that it could help itself by working more closely with other interests, and it would be a timely reminder in this piece of legislation to get that message across. As the noble Lord, Lord Best, has said, we have missed many opportunities over a long period of time, to bring housing into the party as the population has aged. All it has done is increase the burden on adult social care and the NHS. It would be a missed opportunity if we did not rectify some of that now.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, I very much agree with noble Lords that housing, along with health, and care and support, should be considered as the three legs of the stool. In relation to housing we are clear about two things: first, many types of housing can be provided as a means of meeting or preventing care and support needs—for example, extra care housing. That is why accommodation is listed as a way of meeting needs in Clause 8.

Secondly, housing is a wider determinant of health; simply having a roof over your head can have an enormous impact on your health and well-being. To reflect this, the “suitability of living accommodation” is listed as part of well-being in Clause 1(2). I hope that those two points in particular will serve to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Masham.

Amendment 12 clarifies that housing is a “health-related” service, and that both local authorities and the NHS are required to promote integration between care and support, health and housing. This makes the importance of housing explicit not only in the integration duty in this Bill but in the comparable duties on the NHS in the 2006 Act. I hope noble Lords will welcome that.

In Committee, noble Lords also expressed the view that we needed to clarify that local authorities are required to co-operate with providers of services, including providers of housing services. Amendment 28, again in my name, does just this. The non-exhaustive list of the types of “other persons” we expect local authorities to co-operate with would now include certain providers of health, care and support, and housing services. However, we cannot add these bodies as “relevant partners”, as public law is limited in the extent to which it can place duties on such private bodies.

I hope I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Best, and my noble friends Lord Shipley and Lady Eaton that it is a key principle of the Bill that where any type of housing is provided in relation to a person’s care and support needs, that must be considered part of “care and support”. It follows that where housing or accommodation is provided to meet—or indeed prevent, delay or reduce—needs for care and support, local authority duties to provide information and advice, and shape the market, must include such types of accommodation. I undertake that these matters will be made clear in statutory guidance.

However, we must be clear where the boundaries lie between responsibilities for care and support, which will include many types of housing, and for general housing that is not related to care needs. Amendments 15 and 23, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best, risk blurring this divide and creating overlap and confusion between housing and care and support. In that respect, there is, I am afraid, a fundamental problem with these amendments. Providing information and advice about general housing options and ensuring that there is sufficient suitable housing available is clearly the responsibility of the local housing authority, which is not always the local authority responsible for care and support in that area. It simply is not reasonable to ask local authorities, in their care and support functions, to carry out those other functions.

Turning to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, it is incontrovertible that local authorities and relevant partners must co-operate in order to ensure both integration and safe and timely transfers of care; indeed, the Bill already requires this. Clause 6 requires that local authorities and relevant partners co-operate with one another where relevant to care and support. Subsection (5) of this clause sets out some key examples of when this duty should be used. There can be no question that this duty would also apply to promoting integration.

With respect to integration, Clause 3 requires local authorities to promote integration while carrying out their care and support functions. Consequently, this applies to Clause 6. Further, the co-operation duty requires the relevant partners, including NHS bodies and local authorities, to co-operate with one another in the exercise of their respective functions. Such co-operation is inexorably linked to the integration duty.

I am in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in his Amendment 11 that it is imperative that NHS bodies are also under a duty to promote integration. That very thing is achieved by Sections 13N and 14Z1 of the NHS Act 2006, as amended by the 2012 Act, which Clause 3 is intended to reflect. Far from the legislation driving fragmentation, it is actually shot through with duties around integration of services. Although I appreciate the noble Lord’s intention to add further symbolic focus on integration, I do not consider it necessary to make further provisions in this regard, and I am sure he will appreciate that we should not be populating Acts of Parliament with provisions that are legally unnecessary.

That is not to say that integration of services is not important. As part of the spending review in June, we announced the £3.8 billion integration transformation fund, which will provide the biggest ever financial incentive to integrate services. The disabled facilities grant, which funds housing adaptations, is part of that fund. This will make housing a central part of local plans to integrate services.

The current discharge guidance, Ready to Go?, is clear that discharge planning should begin at or before admission, that patients should be assessed by a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency team and that certain matters should be taken into account when performing such an assessment. Further, the assessment required by Schedule 3 is the same as the one specified by Clause 9. As a result, Amendment 39 would give the power to specify in regulations that such an assessment should be carried out jointly, and Clause 12(1)(b) allows regulations to specify what the local authority must have regard to in carrying out that assessment.

Amendment 31 adds the relevant Minister for Jobcentre Plus to the list of relevant partners who are under a duty of reciprocal co-operation with local authorities. This is so that jobcentres and local authorities work together to help adults and carers access employment or training where this is one of their desired outcomes of day-to-day life. Co-operation between local authorities and jobcentres in aligning personal budgets and welfare payments was considered a positive aspect of the right to control pilots.

My noble friend Lord Shipley referred to the spare room subsidy. To recognise that some people need additional space in their home due to their needs for care and support, the Government have trebled the discretionary housing payment scheme. This includes an additional £25 million to support those affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy. That is in addition to £20 million for which disabled adults who do not live in specially adapted accommodation may apply.

I hope that I have convinced the House of the strength of the provisions for integration and co-operation between health, housing, care and support and that the co-operation duties support discharge planning and assessment, and where appropriate support people into employment and training. I hope that I have also convinced the House—and the noble Lord, Lord Best, in particular—of the need for a clear boundary between care and support and housing generally in relation to information and market shaping. I hope that he will be sufficiently satisfied with my explanations.

Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat 5:30, 9 October 2013

When would it be safe to anticipate the statutory guidance which he mentioned?

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

I apologise to my noble friend. I cannot give her a precise answer, but I shall endeavour to do so as soon as possible. I do not think that the guidance will be available before the Bill leaves this House.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

Would Amendment 28 be more acceptable if “may consider” were replaced by “shall consider”? There is a big difference between “may” and “shall.”

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, Amendment 28 is in my name and therefore I consider it to be well shaped and well drafted. I am not about to suggest improvements on the hoof, but I shall take the noble Baroness’s suggestion away with me.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, it is good to know that after due consideration the noble Earl is satisfied with his own amendment. On the housing amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Best, will make up his own mind, but it struck me that he is relying on the difference between the local authority as the local housing authority and the local authority as the care authority. He is of course right to say that in county shire areas in some places it is a different function. However, there remains a concern, given that in relation to care and support we are talking about difficult circumstances, often with vulnerable people, over whether the appropriate advice and support will be given. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Best, will reflect on that.

On my Amendment 11, on integration, the noble Earl relies on existing duties of co-operation on the NHS, and Clauses 3 and 6. Where I fundamentally disagree with him is on the impact of the 2012 Act. The noble Earl may not be aware of just how difficult it now is for the NHS to put a cohesive plan and programme together in every locality, because the current incentives do not encourage that integration. I know that he warns us against putting what he thinks is a superfluous clause in the Bill—but this Care Bill is vitally important. It revises social care legislation and adds the foundations of the implementation of the Dilnot commission. It would be very helpful if there were an explicit duty of co-operation on the National Health Service, because we will not bring about integrated care without the full support of the National Health Service. On due reflection, I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Division on Amendment 11

Contents 206; Not-Contents 224.

Amendment 11 disagreed.

Division number 1 Care Bill [HL] — Report (1st Day)

Aye: 204 Members of the House of Lords

No: 222 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name


No: A-Z by last name


Amendment 12

Moved by Earl Howe

12: Clause 3, page 4, line 10, at end insert—

“( ) For the purposes of this section, the provision of housing is health-related provision.

( ) In section 13N of the National Health Service Act 2006 (duty of NHS Commissioning Board to promote integration), at the end insert—

“(5) For the purposes of this section, the provision of housing accommodation is a health-related service.”

( ) In section 14Z1 of that Act (duty of clinical commissioning groups to promote integration), at the end insert—

“(4) For the purposes of this section, the provision of housing accommodation is a health-related service.””

Amendment 12 agreed.

Clause 4: Providing information and advice

Amendment 13

Moved by Baroness Greengross

13: Clause 4, page 4, line 12, leave out “and maintain” and insert “, maintain and facilitate access to”

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench 5:56, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 18 in this group as well. I have already expressed my support for the Bill, which will make a huge difference to the lives of users of social care services and their families. However, a little more can be done to reform the Bill in the areas of information and advice, and also complaints and redress. I welcome the fact that the Government have recognised this issue and that the Minister has tabled amendments on their behalf. This shows that the Government accept the need for proactive engagement around information and advice, the importance of understanding when and how people access information, and the need for a focus on identifying those who would most benefit from it. These issues reflect exactly the thrust of my amendments except that, unlike the Government’s, mine relate to all information and advice about care and support, not just financial information and advice.

While I welcome the emphasis on proper access to financial advice, it seems a bit inconsistent not to apply this proactive approach to all forms of information and advice about care. For example, even when considering financial options, it is difficult to disentangle these from information that is needed about other aspects of care such as the choice of providers. It might even apply to housing, which was addressed in the debate on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Best.

At a time when local authority budgets are under increasing pressure, it is all the more important that people needing social care services are supported to efficiently access all existing sources of support fairly, equitably and transparently, and that local authorities are held to account for the decisions they make about distributing resources. Consumers have to feel that they are in control of their own care, understand what support they can expect and have the ability to speak up when they are treated unfairly. My amendments are designed to further these aims and I am grateful to Which? for assisting me in validating the consumer detriment aspects of this argument.

First, in Amendment 13 to Clause 4(1), as well as the local authority having the duty to,

“establish and maintain a service for providing people in its area with”— care and support information, I would like to see the local authority having a supporting obligation to “facilitate access to” that service. Secondly, my Amendment 18 to Clause 4(4) would expand the local authority’s duty of information and advice provision beyond those to whom it is being provided to also include those,

“who would benefit from receiving it”.

These amendments would ensure that in fulfilling their duties relating to information and advice, local authorities have a proactive strategy to reach out to those in their area who would benefit from such information and advice, recognising that not everybody will request it and may not proactively approach the local authority. The focus for the local authority should be on improving outcomes through targeted information and advice that people can access at the right time and in the right way. The first of these amendments was raised in Committee and the Government responded that statutory guidance would make it clear that in order to fulfil the duty around information and advice, local authorities will need to facilitate access to it. However, I believe that this does not go far enough—the principle of proactive outreach should be a central part of this duty and therefore should be in the Bill.

The second amendment pertains to the same aim. Clause 4(4) was added to the revised Bill in response to concerns raised by the draft Care and Support Bill Joint Committee that the Government’s plans for information and advice provision by local authorities were too focused on online provision when we know that many older and, indeed, many younger people prefer to access information through different channels, such as by telephone or face to face. This addition, which states that information and advice must be,

“accessible to, and proportionate to the needs of, those for whom it is being provided”, was intended to address this and concerns raised by the committee—I was privileged to be a member of it—that people who need it would not have a right to more intensive forms of support, such as advocacy.

Research for Which? has shown that often the problem is that people do not know what they need to know. One carer said, “It’s a chicken and egg process—before you can find the answer you’ve got to know that you’ve got a question that needs answering.” People also need information and advice at key pinch points; we know this. This amendment would ensure that local authorities consider these when designing their information and advice strategies. For example, people often see their general practitioner as a focal point for information and advice about care, and while the GP may not always be in the best position to give this advice, local authorities can proactively engage with GPs and other health services in their area in order to ensure access to information and advice about care for those who would otherwise slip under the radar. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench 6:00, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I support the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. She is so right in saying that people very often have no idea what questions they need to ask and what services they may be entitled to and therefore this aspect of the Bill is far more important than it sounds.

However, I shall speak to Amendment 21 which, in a way, takes us a step further and would ensure that vulnerable people with current or foreseen complex needs receive information and advice in a way that they can understand; also that the information and advice takes full account of their complex personal position. This may sound simple enough, but, in fact, an untrained person with a leaflet on local services, probably including lots of irrelevant information, is quite likely to leave someone more confused than they were before the visit. In fact, if local authorities do not want people to find their way to services that they need, a rather weak and unstructured approach to information and advice is probably the best way to achieve that result, but in the longer run, such a cynical approach will be highly costly.

My few remarks are based on a briefing from the College of Social Work, which has had the benefit of input from front-line social workers, managers, recent directors of adult care and academics, all of whom are very conscious of and concerned about the efficient use of resources. They would not say lightly that one should be developing a service such as this for information and advice unless it were really important. For people without dementia or other disorders which make it particularly difficult to comprehend the world around them, information and advice can probably be provided by less trained people without any great loss.

As was said in Committee, the aims and principles of the Bill are welcome. The College of Social Work is concerned, however, that many of these principles will not be fulfilled in practice. We hope, with the aims and principles in mind, that the Minister will agree to some further clarification in the Bill, or in regulations, on the key role of skilled social workers in supporting and protecting some of the most vulnerable people in society through their involvement at the information and advice stage.

Key stakeholders were grateful that, in Committee, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, recognised the point of this amendment. He said that,

“some authorities have also used qualified social care staff as the first point of contact and have found that this can be effective, efficient and timely, helping people to the care and support that will help them most”.

At that stage he envisaged that,

“guidance will set out the clear expectations of what the local authority’s service should cover or what it should seek to do in order to ensure that the information and advice is sufficient”.—[ Official Report , 9/7/13; col. 216.]

The aim here is to ensure, by including the appropriate wording in the Bill or in regulations—I fully accept that having it in regulations would be perfectly satisfactory—that professionally qualified social workers will be deployed in sufficient numbers, including at the information and advice stage, for people who really need that level of expertise. As I have already said, those with complex needs may be a relatively small number of people. This should ensure that these particularly vulnerable people are put in touch with the most appropriate services for them. This could avoid the need for more intrusive and expensive interventions at a later stage.

Photo of Lord Lipsey Lord Lipsey Labour

I shall make most of my remarks on the subject of advice and information on Amendment 20, which is a more broad-brush amendment, but I shall just comment on the government amendments in this group, on advice—that is Amendments 16, 17 and 19. I remind the House that I speak as the unremunerated president of SOLLA, the Society of Later Life Advisers, which accredits, to a gold standard, advisers who can help old people on financial matters.

It would be churlish not to say that the government amendments mark a small step forward, in that for the first time they represent a recognition that independent financial advice can be necessary. To that extent, I welcome them. However, I have to say right away that it is impossible to read the briefings we have had without realising that they have caused great disappointment, particularly among financial service people who are determined to get this right. The Equity Release Council says that the government amendments do not go far enough.

In trying to put my finger on the point, yes, they recognise independent advice and financial advice, but they do not recognise the need for that advice to come from people who are properly qualified to give it. It is not enough to have Tom, Dick and Harry advise in this field. It is not enough, even, for local authorities to send people to see people who they may think are quite plausible advisers, such as Citizens Advice: they do not know the complications involved in giving financial advice, particularly to people who have got some money and need to make sure that it will provide them with the care in a home that they want. They need proper, regulated financial advice, given by advisers who can be called to task by the Financial Conduct Authority if the advice they give is not sufficient, who have to follow the rules set by it and must have the kind of qualifications required by it. Therefore, in my view the Government are some way short of what is required in these amendments. It is to repair that lack that I shall later move Amendment 20.

Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I think I am right in saying that in the Inuit language there are more than 300 words for snow. I suspect that if historians were to go back through the annals of the British Civil Service, they would come across thousands of ways in which officials have briefed Ministers to say “no” to requests for advocacy. During the 20 years that I have followed these sorts of issues, during which advocacy has became part of social care, Governments have had to find ways to say, “It’s a very good thing, but we’re not going to fund it”. It was therefore a real joy to see the Government’s Amendments 118 and 119 in this group.

It is fair to say that the Government have taken on board the arguments that have put forward by a wide range of people. We know that the changes to the care system and the complexity of those changes, not least those stemming from the Dilnot recommendations, mean that we are now into a level of complexity which individuals on their own—even those who are fairly well informed—will find extremely difficult to manage. Therefore I very much welcome the Government’s Amendments 118 and 119, in which they recognise that there will have to be advocacy services. I also welcome the Government’s commitment to set aside funding for that.

The Minister will accept that his Amendments 118 and 119 fall somewhat short of my proposal in Amendment 38. I would therefore like to raise a few questions which result from the fact that the government amendments are of a much tighter scope than my proposal. I welcome the amendments, but there are several issues that I wish to ask the Minister about.

Subsection (2) of the new clause proposed in Amendment 118 states that independent advocates will,

“represent and support the individual for the purpose of facilitating the individual’s involvement”.

Advocacy in its truest sense is about much more than involvement—it is about enabling people who need help to achieve the outcomes they want. The word “involvement” is not defined, although it is used a lot in the Bill. Will the Minister say whether advocates will have a full advocacy role or whether this is just about securing the involvement of people?

Secondly, I come to individuals who qualify to have an advocate. Subsection (4) of the proposed new clause is quite clear that that is reduced to people who have substantial difficulty in understanding and retaining information, in making judgments by weighing things or in communicating their views. What is not in the Government’s Amendment 118 is a right of access for the advocate to access those people. Under the Mental Capacity Act and the Mental Health Act, where advocates are appointed they have a statutory right of access to people and a statutory right to interview those people in private. Given that we are talking about some fairly vulnerable people, would it be possible to ensure in regulations that advocates have a statutory right of access?

The third thing that is missing is that although the Government have taken this welcome step, there is absolutely no duty upon the local authority to listen to what the advocate has to say. That is a huge omission in the process; could it be dealt with in regulations? To echo the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, it is important that people are properly trained for the roles that they will undertake in this extremely complex set of conditions which they are dealing with. Again, under the Mental Capacity Act and the Mental Health Act advocates have to be properly trained. Can that be dealt with in regulations?

Finally, can the Minister say whether it will be possible to include a general provision that in future, if additional circumstances arose in which it would be to the benefit of a person to have an advocate, they could have access to one? I am sorry to sound less than pleased—I am, in fact, very pleased by what the Government have put forward—but with a few more minor adjustments in regulations we could have something that is a great step forward.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour 6:15, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I will make a few remarks about three separate subjects that are covered in this group of amendments. First, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, on her tenacity on the subject of advocacy. I very much support what the Government are doing to try to respond to that, because it is a view that many of us across the House have had for some time. The Bill was deficient in terms of advocacy for those who need that kind of help and support.

I will make one remark in relation to my noble friend Lord Lipsey’s remarks, which we will go into a bit more under the next amendment. I remind the Government of the mis-selling of pensions and insurance in the financial services sector. They would do well to dwell on that before they eliminate the idea of some regulation. I see the argument that not all types of financial advice need a regulated financial adviser. However, some types of that advice need a regulated financial adviser. My peace offering to the Government is the following. If they thought a bit more about this, given what happened in the financial services sector, it may be possible to separate out the types of financial advice and deal with it in regulation, where we need both regulated and unregulated people. At the moment, the Government are being too broad-brush in ignoring some of the complexities, particularly around equity release and deferred payments, which may be equally as complex as any of the pensions and insurance issues that were being rather gaily sold by untrained people in the financial services sector.

I take issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, on Amendment 21, drawing on my six years as a director of social services. In the 1980s, we set up a care management system where care managers did not have to be qualified social workers. These people were putting together packages of care after an in-service training course, which enabled them to deal with some very vulnerable people with quite complex needs. It is not necessary to have a social worker. Many local authority departments over the years have developed benefits advice services that run alongside their social work colleagues, which give financial benefits advice to vulnerable people who need to be helped to find their way around the social security system. I caution the Government against not going down that path. With all due respect to the professional advice that the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, has had, qualified social workers are not necessarily very good at giving some of the advice that we are talking about.

Even more to the point, we should not divert a scarce resource such as qualified social workers into this area of activity when we do not need to. I remind the noble Earl that we are seeing, in the children’s services, a 50% increase in the number of children coming into care in a four-year period. The real need for social work skills and resources is in some of those other areas of work that local authorities have to deal with. However modest the numbers may be—and this amendment does not limit them that much—we do not need to divert scarce social work resources into this area. They need to go into some of their higher priority work, particularly in the area of children.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, we shall come to Amendment 20, in the name of my noble friend Lord Lipsey and that of other noble Lords, including me, in a moment. However, I want to ask the noble Earl about the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, in relation to independent advocacy. The noble Baroness raised a pertinent point about what responsibility there is on a local authority to engage with the advocate. I hope that the noble Earl will provide the House with more information. Clearly, this is a step forward, which is to be welcomed, but one needs some assurance that the advocacy system will work effectively. It would be helpful to know what the noble Earl’s department thinks might be the appropriate response of a local authority where an advocate has come to the fore.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. It is one thing to provide information support grudgingly; another to be proactive in doing so. Perhaps the noble Earl would comment in particular on Clause 4, because there is a world of difference between Clause 4(1), in which a local authority must,

“establish and maintain a service for providing people in its area with information and advice”, and Clause 4(2), which goes on to describe what type of advice. This does not assure us that a local authority will be effective in doing so. I should be grateful if the noble Earl would explain how this will be monitored. Will the Government have a role in reviewing the effectiveness of local authorities in providing that?

If one is resident in an area where the local authority does not seem to provide an effective information and advice service, what recourse does one have? I assume that there would be judicial review and the ombudsman, but those are heavy-handed approaches and it would be helpful to know whether the Government have thought through ways in which members of the public can draw attention to failures to provide effective information and advice in some local authority areas.

That might pick up on the amendment relating to the use of professionally qualified social workers. My noble friend Lord Warner, with a great deal of experience, has suggested that even in areas where there are complex needs, a qualified social worker need not necessarily provide this support. None the less, one wants some assurance that sufficient provision for support will be given. Again, it comes back to the issue of how we will monitor the performance of local authorities.

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench

My Lords, perhaps as a point of information in response to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, I should clarify that my amendment does not suggest that qualified social workers should provide financial advice, for example. The important point about the role of these qualified social workers is that they are used to co-ordinating services for people and would be well aware of the need for financial and all sorts of other advice. Therefore, in relation to people with very complex needs, they are in a good position to make sure that all the bits of the jigsaw are actually provided. That was the objective behind the amendment.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, let there be no doubt at all that in the Government’s view high quality, accessible information is vital if we are to realise the aims set out in this Bill. We heard some excellent arguments in Committee about financial advice, advocacy, accessibility and signposting to other sources of information and advice. I hope that the amendments we are tabling today, and the commitments that we can give about our work with the sector on statutory guidance, will persuade noble Lords that we have listened to what we heard in Committee and have acted accordingly.

The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, has tabled two amendments, Amendments 13 and 18, which state that local authorities should facilitate access to information and advice and that they should be accessible to those who would benefit. Amendment 21, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, proposes regulation-making powers which specify when social workers should provide information in complex cases. Following consultation, we made clear that information and advice must be accessible to those who have a need for them in relation to care and support. It says exactly that in Clause 4(4). Local authorities will have to meet the information needs of all groups, including those who often find it most difficult to access information, such as those with sensory impairments, people from BME backgrounds, people who are socially isolated or who have complex conditions. We are absolutely clear about that.

“Accessible and proportionate”—the words that we use in the Bill—also mean ensuring that information and advice are available in the right format, in the right places and at the right time. A vital aspect of this is making them available face to face and one to one, by phone, through leaflets and posters as well as online. When appropriate and most effective, that advice should be given directly by a qualified social worker. There will be other occasions when information and advice are best and most appropriately provided by others. We are working with all interested parties on what this means in practice and on translating this into the statutory guidance.

Amendment 18, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, seeks to ensure that information should be accessible and proportionate to those who would benefit. We consider this amendment to be unnecessary. The duty to provide information and advice applies to a local authority’s whole population—including those who would benefit from that. Each local authority will need to tailor the service to its population’s needs. I can confirm to the noble Baroness that the detail about how to do this will be covered in statutory guidance, and we are working with stakeholders, including carers and user groups, to make sure that we get this right.

The Government have also listened carefully to concerns expressed about the provision of information and advice on financial matters. We have in response tabled Amendments 16 and 17, which seek to make clearer the active role that local authorities have. Amendment 16 requires local authorities to have regard to the importance of identifying individuals who would be likely to benefit from financial advice. This encourages a more active role for local authorities to consider whether people would benefit from financial advice. Amendment 17 means that local authorities must seek to ensure that adults understand how to access information and advice on the range of financial options available to them.

There are various options for people who could benefit from financial advice relating to care and support, both regulated and non-regulated. Our amendments highlight the importance of ensuring that people understand how to access the variety of advice available independently from local authorities. They mean that local authorities must seek to ensure that adults understand how to access the different financial advice available to them, thereby supporting people to make informed choices.

A particular point that I want to bring out here is that the Government do not believe it would be appropriate to require local authorities to make direct referrals. For the most part, local authorities do not possess the necessary expertise, and there is a risk that a referral leading to poor advice could bring a significant burden of accountability on to the local authority. We will work closely with stakeholders as we produce the statutory guidance to understand how different types of financial advice, including regulated financial advice, might be of benefit for people in different situations, as well as the active role of local authorities within this.

Amendments 14 and 19 seek to simplify and clarify Clause 4 and to respond to specific concerns raised in discussion in Committee. Amendment 14 simply re-words Clause 4(2)(d) in a more concise and understandable way. This makes the clear and unambiguous statement that the information and advice service must cover how a person can access independent financial advice on matters relevant to the meeting of needs for care and support. Amendment 19 responds to concerns raised about the potential confusion, particularly in the financial services industry, over the term “independent financial advice”. The amendment clarifies that the term means financial advice independent of the local authority.

I turn to the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lady Barker about the importance of access to independent advocacy. The Bill requires local authorities to involve adults in the assessment, care-planning and review processes. Most people will be able to carry out this involvement on their own and many others will have family or friends who are able to represent their views. However, in the light of what we have heard from noble Lords and other stakeholders, the Government accept that some people may require independent assistance to make this involvement a reality, which is why we are bringing forward Amendments 118 and 119. These are very similar to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Barker. I shall address in a moment the questions that she put to me.

Following close work with the sector, we agree that the people who need this assistance most are those who have substantial difficulty in understanding, retaining, using or weighing the necessary information to allow this involvement, as well as those who have difficulty in communicating their wishes and feelings. For these people, our amendment states that local authorities would be under a duty to provide an independent advocate if there was no appropriate person to represent the individual who was not also involved in that person’s care or treatment. This would usually be a friend or family member. The Government’s amendments go further by proposing a similar duty to provide independent advocates to facilitate people’s involvement in the safeguarding processes. We consider it vital that people are at the heart of these processes, rather than having these processes done to them.

My noble friend asked about the term “involve”. The change in the duty to involve a person as opposed to consulting them in the assessment, care-planning and review processes was made as a result of public consultation. It represents a significant shift by changing the emphasis on the process from being one that is led by the local authority to one carried out jointly with the individual. In practice, this means that people will need to be actively involved throughout the process, meaning that local authorities take their views into account rather than being able to perform tick-box assessment exercises, which is sometimes the accusation now. This fits with our whole approach to reforming care and support, shifting from a paternalistic view and a system where the authorities know best to a system that is driven around people and their individual preferences.

My noble friend also asked about the right of access. We know that there have sometimes been issues around independent advocates being unable to access a person, resulting in their being unable to perform their role properly. Proposed subsection (2) of government Amendment 118 requires an advocate to be made available to the individual, and the duty of co-operation in Clause 6 requires relevant partners of a local authority to co-operate in such matters. The regulation-making power at proposed subsection (7)(d) in Amendment 118 allows us to make provision as to the manner in which independent advocates are to perform their functions. This will allow the Government to specify that advocates will need to see the individuals, among other things. We have not yet made decisions about the specific content of these regulations, as we will work collaboratively with all interested stakeholders to produce them.

The regulation-making power will allow us to specify the manner in which independent advocates will carry out their role. There are two main ways of quality-assuring the work of advocates, which was another issue raised by my noble friend. The first is through the commissioning process, whereby local authorities set out what they expect of the advocacy service in terms of quantity and quality and monitor it through performance indicators and regular meetings. Secondly, the department has also funded a sector-specific quality assurance framework, whereby organisations start by carrying out a self-assessment and then are visited by assessors, who examine and report on the quality of the work. This is called the quality performance mark, and many commissioners require it.

My noble friend asked about the possibility of a general provision to allow for future circumstances where advocacy is appropriate. I can tell her that the regulation-making powers in proposed subsection (7)(c) of Amendment 118 allow us to do that. Statutory guidance will go into more detail about when advocacy would be appropriate.

I turn to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about how we will monitor effectiveness and what recourse individuals have. First, by putting care and support law into a single statute, we are ensuring that local authorities are clear about their care and support obligations. As public bodies, they are obliged to comply with these legal obligations, and we can rightly assume that they will do so. In some circumstances, an individual bringing legal proceedings against a local authority may be able to argue that an authority’s failure to comply with such duties has adversely affected them, and hence a failure to comply could be subject to a legal challenge. We will, however, be coming on to debate the role of the CQC in this context, and I can perhaps elaborate further on our thoughts on the role of the CQC at that point.

I hope that by bringing forward these amendments we are showing that we have listened carefully to the many representations we have heard on the issue of advocacy and are demonstrating the Government’s commitment to improving outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people using care and support. I hope that they will receive the support of the House. Further, I trust that noble Lords will note that we have listened carefully about the importance of financial advice and will support the amendments that we are proposing, which encourage a more active role for local authorities. Finally, I hope that noble Lords are persuaded about how important we believe the statutory guidance on information and advice to be, in which we are committed to addressing in detail important issues, such as integration with areas such as health and housing and making information accessible to all.

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench 6:30, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I start by thanking the Minister for his very detailed response to these amendments. I am encouraged by what he said. I was, in my remarks, trying to broaden this issue so that integration is about the information and advice that people need and is not always restricted to financial advice and information. It is much broader. Obviously, the proof of the pudding in this is going to lie in what actually happens, and whether we get the sort of integrated approach to this that we hope underlies the philosophy of the whole Bill.

I am sorry that this provision cannot be in the Bill, but I am less worried about that than the eventual result of these measures. The slight muddling around the word “independence” will come out when we consider the next group of amendments and discuss the difference between regulated and independent. The two can be muddled, with regard to “independent” and “regulated”, when thinking of lots of different models for financial products, for example, and “independent” from the local authority. That all needs to be very clear in the minds of those who seek advice and those who are giving advice to very frail and vulnerable people to whom this needs to be clear, broad and helpful, and as well meaning as I know the Minister has in mind for it to be. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 13 withdrawn.

Amendment 14

Moved by Earl Howe

14: Clause 4, page 4, line 22, leave out from “matters” to “, and” in line 24 and insert “relevant to the meeting of needs for care and support”

Amendment 14 agreed.

Amendment 15 not moved.

Amendments 16 and 17

Moved by Earl Howe

16: Clause 4, page 4, line 28, after “particular” insert “—

( ) have regard to the importance of identifying adults in the authority’s area who would be likely to benefit from financial advice on matters relevant to the meeting of needs for care and support,

( ) ”

17: Clause 4, page 4, line 32, after “arise” insert “, and

(iii) to understand the different ways in which they may access independent financial advice on matters relevant to the meeting of needs for care and support.”

Amendments 16 and 17 agreed.

Amendment 18 not moved.

Amendment 19

Moved by Earl Howe

19: Clause 4, page 4, line 34, at end insert—

“( ) “Independent financial advice” means financial advice provided by a person who is independent of the local authority in question.”

Amendment 19 agreed.

Amendment 20

Moved by Lord Lipsey

20: Clause 4, page 4, line 41, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State

(a) has a duty to ensure through national public awareness campaigns that there is a high level of public awareness and understanding of the terms and implications of the cap on the cost of care; and

(b) shall publish annually a report on the levels of such awareness and understanding, including the results of a representative poll of adults.

( ) Regulations must make provision for when a local authority must refer an adult with care and support needs, or who is making plans for meeting such needs, to a regulated financial adviser; and for when a local authority may refer such an adult for such advice.

( ) The advice and information made available to adults with care and support needs must include—

(a) advice on housing options; and

(b) tailored information for individuals with specific medical conditions and complex individual needs.”

Photo of Lord Lipsey Lord Lipsey Labour

My Lords, perhaps I may start with a procedural point. We have had these matters under discussion for quite some time, and the first three Peers named on the amendment—myself, the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross—had a most useful meeting with the Minister and Norman Lamb from another place on 12 September. There was complete agreement at that meeting that, if it was at all possible, we wanted to go forward on the basis of consensus on the matters of advice and information, and I am sure that that is right. However, I think it fair to say that we are not quite there yet.

The Minister very kindly agreed to share with us his notes for his speech in reply to the debate this evening in advance so that we could consider them, because many things that he might want to say are very relevant to whether we have a picture for advice that really does the job—sorry to mix the analogies. The Minister fulfilled his kind promise, but only at 2.41 pm this afternoon, and I have not had a chance to digest his words, nor to discuss them with my colleagues, whose names are on the amendment. He also suggested that we should have further talks if they would be helpful, particularly, he said, between Report stage days. Clearly we are not considering finished business here. All I am asking is that there should be agreement from him and from the House that if either he or we think that an amendment at Third Reading is appropriate and necessary—it may well not be—he will not resist it on the grounds that we have thoroughly debated it. This is open territory and we are trying to find a way forward. In that way we can avoid any Divisions this evening. I would be grateful if the Minister would agree.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

My Lords, I am happy to give that undertaking.

Photo of Lord Lipsey Lord Lipsey Labour

That is marvellous. That makes it much easier.

As I said, I think we are making headway, but I do not think we are necessarily there. There are three elements to this amendment: the information campaign, which the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, will concentrate on in his remarks; special groups and housing, which the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, will address; and I will concentrate on the issue of advice.

Why do I spend so much time banging on about advice? This is an incredibly complicated area. The financial products are very complicated, and many people do not have a natural understanding of them. We all sort of know what a pension is. How many people, even in this House, know what a point-of-use care plan policy is? Who would be able to evaluate whether it was good value for money or bad? There is a large gap in the degree to which people know and understand the kind of products that can be involved here and the issues that can arise.

There is not a lot of this advice about, by the way. Some 53% of councils did not even refer people in care homes them for independent financial advice. Only 7,000 of the 53,000 self-funders in care homes have had appropriate financial advice. A point-of-use policy can ensure that they can go on paying for their care however long they happen to stay in the home. Their whole lives are at stake, yet hardly more than 10% have received the financial advice they need.

This is costly not just to the individual but to the councils. Nearly one-fifth of self-funders end up falling back on the state to pay. It costs councils £435 million a year, which is a substantial sum. Much of this could be avoided if people got appropriate financial advice. I do not think that this is not common ground with the Government, but it is, I think, a reason why the Government need to make absolutely sure that they get it right in what they do.

The need for financial advice has greatly increased as a result of the Dilnot scheme. The scheme has no stronger supporter than me, except possibly the Minister. I think it is a very good outcome to a very long and protracted debate. Nevertheless, it does make a lot of things more complicated. I will give an example that I gave in an earlier debate. You can apply for help under the means test and find that you are worse off if you get it because, although you get a little help under the means test, you lose attendance allowance if you get any means-tested support at all. I was amazed when I found that out, and I study this every day. How many people would know that unless they had the right kind of financial advice? That could come from citizens advice bureaux if their computer systems were up to it, but you really want an independent adviser to help you in the round. I do not think that is very controversial.

It made me wonder why the original clauses in the Bill—and, as I argued earlier, even the revised clauses—are rather weak. I think I detected the answer in the Minister’s reply to the previous debate. What everybody is terribly worried about is a council saying, “Go and see Jones down the road. He will give you the right advice.” If that advice later turns out not to be very good, that person will not sue Jones or go to the Financial Ombudsman Service; he will sue the council. That seems to me a perfectly reasonable point. However, at the other end it does not work, either. It is no good if the council just hands him a list of financial advisers and says, “Why don’t you ring one of these chappies if you are not happy?” because that will not cause people to do it. What we are looking for is not a direction to go and see X, nor a vague offer that something might be a good idea if he wanted to do it. We need to nudge people pretty firmly in the direction of getting financial advice. Of course, any individual is free to say that they do not want that advice; that would then be their lookout.

I am not sure—and the House will judge when it has heard the Minister’s remarks—that even now we have cracked the dilemma of how we nudge. However, many local authorities are making very good progress in this field—for example, Nottinghamshire and West Sussex, which we have discussed before—setting up fora in which the local authority, independent financial advisers, citizens advice bureaux and the voluntary sector all co-operate and provide a service to people. Incidentally, some councils are doing this because they absolutely need to for the benefit of their own budget. A whole lot of people are moving out of inner London who are self-funders but who do not have enough money to go on self-funding forever. They will impose an impossible burden on those councils. The go-ahead ones are going ahead and the ones who do not like this area are not doing anything at all. That is why we need more vigour from the Government on this issue.

Furthermore, I am not convinced that enough is being done to get the regulation system up to speed. Regulation of advisers in this field was only reluctantly embraced by the old FSA. I am not sure that the new regime is doing very much better. I hope that the Government are doing enough to push it to take this issue seriously. Not enough is going on to make sure that enough qualified advisers are coming forward. It is a very good job for an adviser now that the old ways of making money by flogging people dodgy investments are becoming increasingly difficult. This is a very good field and I would advise any reputable financial adviser with the right knowledge to think seriously about going into it. It is very satisfying work and can be rewarding. However, I do not think enough of it is going on.

I see here a great shortfall—to which my amendment would be only one part of the solution, but an important part—between what is needed and what is actually happening. It is crucial that the House satisfies itself that the Minister’s department really is gripping this and not being paralysed in the headlights by thinking, “Oh, dear, some poor local authority or the Government may get the blame if this goes wrong”. The whole Dilnot scheme depends on getting advice right. It is as strong and as simple as that. If it fails for the lack of dealing with the advice problem, we as a nation, and many older people, will be the poorer as a result. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Sharkey Lord Sharkey Liberal Democrat 6:45, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I will speak to the first part of this amendment, but before I do so I will register my strong support for the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, a moment ago, especially with regard to the provision of independent and regulated financial advice.

I think it is common ground that the Dilnot reforms will fail unless the public understand what they are and what their implications are. I think it is also common ground that there needs to be vigorous communication campaigns to make sure people do in fact know about and understand the implications of the reforms. Where there seems to be a difference between the Minister and those who supported a similar amendment to this in Committee is over who should be directly responsible for ensuring that these campaigns take place and that they have an effective form, and over how their effectiveness is assessed.

The amendment before us gives the Secretary of State a duty to ensure through national public awareness campaigns that there is a high level of public awareness and understanding of the terms and implications of the cap on the cost of care. In his reply to a similar amendment in Committee, the Minister simply noted that the Bill as it stands places a duty on local authorities to provide information and advice, including on the cap system. In later correspondence, for which I am very grateful to the Minister, he expanded on the point. He noted that, first, the funding reforms create a shared interest on the part of local authorities, government and the financial services industry to make sure that people are aware of the reforms and have access to the right information and advice at the right time so that they can plan and be prepared to meet their care and support needs. Secondly, the Government want to act in partnership with these key stakeholders to get this right, building on the effective relationships already established. Thirdly, the Government are seeking views in a consultation on the design and technical implementation of the funding reforms, which includes addressing the best way to proceed to raise awareness of these reforms nationally and locally.

The Minster’s remarks make it clear that there are lots of interested parties in this communications endeavour, but they entirely overlook the question of leadership. A campaign as vital as this needs leadership. I maintain that that leadership can come only from the Secretary of State. Local authorities, almost by definition, cannot easily lead in any national sense. As for the financial services industry, it is convinced that the information campaigns need clear, well defined leadership, and is quite clear that it cannot come from that industry. Who would believe facts on the reforms presented by somebody trying to sell you something? In fact, the ABI has told me that it believes that the public information initiative should be led by the Government. That is what part 1 of this amendment would do—give the Secretary of State leadership and responsibility.

The other areas where the Minister may differ about a communications campaign are how high to set the bar and how to explicitly make it plain that it is not just the terms of the reform that have to be understood but the implications of the terms of the reform. It is not much good being aware of the facts if you cannot work out what the facts mean for you. However, the difference over how high to set the bar for a communication campaign is critical. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, pointed out a moment ago, the Bill states only that local authorities must establish and maintain a service for providing information and advice. The Bill does not set any measure for whether anyone actually receives or understands this information and advice. It does not set targets of any kind.

You can easily see a situation in which local authorities can, at least technically, fulfil a duty to provide advice and information without providing much of it, or knowing how many people are reached by it and how many of those reached understand it and the implications it has for them. That would be an entirely unsatisfactory outcome and certainly not what the Government intend. We need to make sure this does not happen and that is what part 1 of the amendment would do. It calls for,

“a high level of public awareness and understanding of the terms and implications of the cap on the cost of care”.

At Second Reading, the Minister said:

“The Government will adopt a strategic approach to maximising the public’s understanding of the new care and support system”.—[Hansard, 21/5/13; col. 827.]

The key word is “maximising”. The amendment gives written substance to the idea of maximisation.

The first part of the amendment contains a paragraph which would require the Secretary of State to publish annually a report on the levels of awareness and understanding of the reforms,

“including the results of a representative poll of adults”.

When we discussed this requirement in Committee and subsequently, the Minister felt that reviews of understanding and awareness would naturally follow in the normal course of things, and I am sure that is the case. However, the special nature of these reforms and the need to be able accurately to measure progress in informing people and keeping them informed calls for a more definite and more regular assessment. The Minister also felt that the kind of annual survey we proposed might be very expensive. I have had extensive experience of these surveys in business over the past 20 years and I can reassure the Minister immediately that the kind of annual survey this amendment proposes would have an essentially trivial cost. That is why, for the sake of clarity, the amendment makes reference to a “representative poll of adults”. This kind of survey would, in fact, cost very little, would be very easy to administer and would be exceptionally quick in delivering results.

I will close by saying that I strongly believe a large-scale national information and advice campaign is necessary for the success of our reforms. I believe that any such campaign must have appropriate targets and that we should see on a regular basis how these targets are being met. I believe that any such campaign must have clear leadership, and that direct responsibility for that leadership should be the duty of the Secretary of State, as the amendment proposes. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to agree with at least some of it.

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench

My Lords, I fully endorse what my two esteemed colleagues said regarding the need for appropriate financial advice. I am still of the opinion that people should be referred to regulated advisers, who are best placed to advise them on the full range of solutions open to them. However, to avoid repetition, I will briefly concentrate on the paragraph in Amendment 20 dealing with other areas of concern about which we have already talked in some depth such as housing. People with specific medical conditions and complex needs are reliant on suitable housing provision. We should also not forget the needs of their carers in this regard. The local authority will need to engage with agencies and organisations such as the CABs and Age UK in an integrated way. This should be part of providing a relevant local advice and information envelope.

Plainly, there is no point in getting appropriate financial advice if, through no fault of the adviser, faithfully following that advice cannot be guaranteed to lead to good care outcomes. Those outcomes may be consequent upon ensuring that things such as the suitability of the individual’s housing and accommodation are included in any wider fact finding conducted by the local authority alongside any care or financial assessments it performs. That housing suitability will probably depend on the complexity of the care package that the individual’s needs disclose. Those needs will probably derive directly from the specific set of conditions and symptoms that the individual faces.

No one would expect a local authority to be familiar with every possible combination of health and social circumstances that an individual may face, which is why close working alongside local agencies and organisations such as the CABs and Age UK in assuring the existence of a complete, competent advice and information envelope is so important. Indeed, it is my firm view that the quality of that integrated approach to care management may well be the key determinant on which successful outcomes depend. I urge the Minister to adopt our amendment, as we believe that it would go a long way to ensure more effective and efficient outcomes for both the service user and the taxpayer.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative 7:00, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Professional Financial Advisers. One of the areas that regulated financial advisers are most concerned about is that they should be able to do the job that they are there for. I am concerned that recent “reforms” have meant that there are fewer people available to give advice and fewer people getting advice. One of our problems is that this means that people get bad advice. They say something to their friend round the corner, or somebody says “I think so-and-so’s OK”, or they have read something in the newspaper. One of our difficulties here is that the perfect gets in the way of the good. People are frightened to say things like, “here is a list of people” or “here is somebody I have used”, in case they then incur some kind of responsibility. Yet if we do not help people to find someone who can give them advice, the very people who most need advice do not get it. I am concerned that this is becoming almost a social problem in the sense that those who are best off and least need advice get the best advice while those who are less well off and need advice do not get it because we have got ourselves into this mess.

I am not in a position to say that this or that amendment is ideal, but I hope the Minister will accept that, in today’s circumstances, unless we give clarity to people and make it relatively easy and simple for them to go to get advice, they will not go and will not be able to.

I have two more short points to make. First, we have concentrated on the simplicity of the advice when you get it, which seems to me to be the wrong place. It is the simplicity of getting the advice that really matters. Very often, the advice that is given may not be all that simple, because the circumstances may not be all that simple, but if the simplicity of getting the advice is right then it can be moved through more effectively.

Secondly, in considering these amendments and, indeed the Bill—at this stage and going forward—I hope the Minister will realise that one of the problems about seeking advice is that the language used is incomprehensible to anybody but the professional. I find this embarrassing: I once sat on an FSA committee designed to try to make more people more financially literate and spent my whole time asking superior people in the finance world to explain to me what they meant. I discovered that they did not always know what they meant. There is a sort of language which is used and batted backwards and forwards between these people. There is a terrible fallout in this. I remember that a friend of mine was asked for advice—not about finance, but about how to buy a theatre ticket—by a man had never gone to the theatre before but whose wife wanted to go to something. She explained and dealt with it but a friend of hers said, very superiorly: “Of course everybody knows how to buy a theatre ticket”. My friend asked, very simply: “Could you buy a football ticket”?

That is one of the problems, so I hope we can try to do this in a way which is comprehensible and simple and which does not mean that the most needy are unable to get the service they need.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour

My Lords, I rise to support this amendment and, particularly, to talk about the first two prongs of it. I do this partly from my experience as a member of the Dilnot commission. I remind the House what that commission said on the subject of an awareness campaign. We made only 10 recommendations, one of which was a very strong one because we had been incredibly depressed by the evidence given about people’s understanding of the present system, let alone the new one. When you have 60% of the population thinking that social care is provided by the NHS, you have a bit of a problem explaining to people how the system operates. Since they have not even mastered the existing system, you have to make a really big effort to get across some of the messages about the changes to it.

You could argue that it is a bit like Africa: if you have never had a landline and go straight to mobile phones it might be easier to make the change. Many people will not carry a lot of baggage about the existing system, but we do need to work really hard on this issue. That is why we said:

“To encourage people to plan ahead for their later life we recommend that the Government invest in an awareness campaign”— we used the word “invest” very deliberately—

“This should inform people of the new system and the importance of planning ahead. This campaign could be linked into the wider work to encourage pension savings”.

Those three sentences were worked over very carefully and we said exactly what we meant on those issues. We said them as strongly as that because we thought that, to some extent, the success or failure of the changes encompassed in the Bill depend on that awareness campaign. I have not seen the Minister’s reply, but I have a suspicion—because I know how health Ministers get briefed—that there will be something about how this is not appropriate stuff to put in the Bill. I can see that there is some strength in that argument but if we are not to put it in the Bill then the Minister has got to start to tell us, in detail, what the Government are going to do.

The Government have had more than two years to think about this. We were made to produce a report very quickly indeed: within 12 months. It is now more than two years since it was produced and I should have thought we could expect a reasonably detailed plan from the Department of Health about how it is actually going to make the public aware. It would be nice if the Minister accepted the amendment, but if he is not going to, we need to know: where is the budgetary provision for the awareness campaign; what work has been done on the selection of people to help run the campaign; when it will start and how long it will go on for. How much are you going to pay for this? Do you accept the idea that all good awareness campaigns have some kind of follow-up arrangements? The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, has suggested an annual survey and I would not disagree with that. As he rightly said, these surveys are, from my experience, relatively cheap to do. Given the sums of money we are talking about in the Bill, this would be a very modest thing to do and there is certainly no point in having an awareness campaign if you are not going to check up whether there has been any increase in awareness.

There is a raft of issues where we need to have some detail from the Government on what they have been doing on this recommendation for a couple of years. If we have not got a very convincing story, we have to consider putting this in the Bill, to generate some energy and action in this area.

I turn to the second prong, which we have already talked a little bit about under the previous group of amendments. I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Lipsey said, and I want to return to the issue of mis-selling. We have had some serious problems in this country about the way the public has been sold financial products and we ought to be able to learn from history over that. It is not any old Tom, Dick and Harry who can give sensible advice to people about complex financial issues. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, is right: many of these issues are complex and you need a simple system to get to the advice, but the advice is not always going to be simple.

Let me illustrate that with the sort of circumstances that families and older people may be faced with. It is fairly common that an older person is going to give up their house; their spouse has died and they will have to give up the house. The family might well want to have a conference about what they do with that house. There are several options: they could keep the house and rent it for income; they could go for equity release; they could go for deferred payments; or they could go for a point of care plan, as my noble friend said. Choosing the best thing to do from some of those options is not straightforward; it will require someone who knows their way around some of these issues and can give advice to people and their families on how to make a sensible, good decision that fits their particular circumstances. The Government have to give more consideration to this.

I accept that not every issue will be complicated and there could be some circumstances in which the financial advice does not need to be given by a regulated financial adviser. However, the Government now have to do the legwork on separating the sort of situations where regulated financial advice is needed from those where one can be more relaxed about it. If we do not give guidance of some standing and credibility to local authorities, we put them in an invidious position because they will be damned if they do and damned if they do not. They need some advice on the sorts of circumstances in which they, to discharge their obligations under the terms of this piece of legislation, can point people clearly in the direction of advice that is likely to be appropriate to that person’s circumstances.

Lastly, I wish to make a point to the noble Earl about the Secretary of State’s new obligation under government Amendment 138 to have regard to the local authority’s requirement in Clause 1 to promote well-being. The Secretary of State is now pretty much in the same position as that of the local authority when he is producing guidance and regulations. It is at least an arguable case that he would not be fulfilling that requirement unless he put in place some credible arrangements for sound financial advice being given to people and he helped the public to understand the details of the arrangements of the new scheme that the Government were implementing. I am not a lawyer, but it would be worth a punt by going to lawyers to argue that the Secretary of State would be in breach of his new obligations if he took a cavalier approach to financial advice and awareness of the new scheme.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for giving us an assurance that this matter can be brought back at Third Reading, which is very helpful to our debate.

As several noble Lords have said, many people find dealing with financial products very complex indeed. They also find the system of social care funding to be complex. How much more complex will it be when the Dilnot provisions in the Bill are introduced? My noble friend made the point that many people misunderstand the current system. Many people think that social care is free at the point of use until they suddenly reach a situation where either they or their relatives are faced with catastrophic issues around long-term care. Even in relation to Dilnot, my noble friend Lord Lipsey pointed out in Committee that many people think there is this cap of £72,000 but, as we know, it is much more complex than that. The £72,000 cap is based on the fee that the local authority will pay for people who are not self-funded, but we know that self-funders, in essence, subsidise those who go into care that is in one way or another funded by the local authority because they meet the means-test requirements. Of course it is not free because there then have to be hotel costs, which Dilnot estimated to be about £12,000 a year. This matter is therefore very complex and many people find dealing with financial issues very difficult.

I was very struck by a report produced two or three weeks ago by the Association of British Insurers, which looked at annuities. The range of rates of return for annuities is quite extraordinary. The ABI figures showed that people who fail to take advice or shop around for their annuity are settling for retirement incomes that in some cases are nearly a third lower than those they could receive from the best deal. Indeed, the new rates published by the ABI show that the best conventional annuity pays out 31% more than the worst, equating to a difference of more than £1,400 a year in retirement income for a £100,000 pension. The gap between the best and the worst is up to 46% for enhanced annuities available to those with ill health or certain lifestyle characteristics such as smoking.

One would have thought that in the case of annuities, when people have been paying into a fund for years, and when, it is hoped, most retire in good health and full cognisance of their faculties, they would be able to find their way around the system to ensure that they did not stick with just the fund into which they are paying their money but shopped around. However, the evidence seems to be that the public in general find annuities difficult to work with. If people cannot find their way around the annuity world, how on earth can they be expected to find their way around the complexities of finances when having to make very difficult decisions in terms of the cost of care?

I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Deben, when he pooh-poohed the idea that local authorities should fear making available to members of the public information about where they might seek regulated financial advice. If we are worried about local authorities becoming liable if they provide information on where people could receive proper financial advice, this is deferring to a risk-averse culture at the expense of the public interest.

I think that there is a consensus around the House that something more needs to be done. I hope that the noble Earl will listen sympathetically to all noble Lords who have spoken and will come back on Third Reading with much more clarity and a reassurance that the Government recognise there needs to be a widespread, effective campaign in relation to financial awareness. We need to be satisfied that people will be able to find their way to proper, regulated financial advice.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 7:15, 9 October 2013

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, my noble friend Lord Sharkey, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, for the amendment, which covers a number of distinct issues relating to information, advice and awareness of the reforms to care and support funding. I am grateful to them all for meeting me over the summer to discuss these issues so constructively.

A number of speakers, including the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Warner, stated that public awareness of these matters, particularly on the potential cost of care, is woefully low and that this needs to be addressed. My noble friend Lord Deben made some telling points in that connection. The Government agree that if we are to realise in the fullest sense the benefits of these reforms, it is critical that people are made aware of them and what the reforms mean for them. There is absolutely no dispute on that point. I explained in Committee that Clause 4 requires local authorities to provide information and advice on care and support, and that this must be accessible to their whole population. This will need to include information on the capped costs system.

However, we accept that local awareness-raising alone might not be sufficient. Furthermore, we accept that the department has an important role to play at the national level. For an awareness campaign to be successful it needs to be delivered in partnership—national and local government working alongside the wider care sector. We do not believe that a specific duty in the Bill would achieve this and we do not think that it is necessary. It is not necessary, for one thing, because we are already building a partnership without legislation. We have embarked upon a joint programme with local government to implement the reforms, and I can assure my noble friend Lord Sharkey, and the noble Lord, Lord Warner, in particular, that awareness-raising will be a part of this. We are engaging with the voluntary sector, care providers and the financial services industry to make sure that we all play our part in communicating these reforms effectively. It is a joint effort and a joint responsibility.

To answer my noble friend Lord Sharkey, the public awareness campaign will be timed to coincide with the coming into force of the key elements—that is, April 2015 for most; April 2016 for the capped costs system. I can assure him, too, that the Government do not intend to shy away from the need to raise public awareness.

Turning to the second limb of the amendment, the Government are not convinced that it is proportionate to require the Secretary of State to conduct a poll and publish a subsequent annual report on awareness of the capped costs system. However, we do agree with the need to monitor the effectiveness of the reforms and the Government have committed to conduct post-legislative scrutiny of all new legislation. Moreover, recognising the need to improve data on public understanding of care and support, we have also taken steps to develop and include new survey questions for the annual Health Survey for England. The new questions will be used to monitor and track public awareness over time. If questions are included, fieldwork will be conducted throughout 2014, and the report will be published at the end of 2015. These data would provide us with a baseline against which we can evaluate changes in public awareness. The survey is conducted annually, so there is scope to include the questions in subsequent years. Additionally, there are already questions in the English Longitudinal Study of AgeingELSA—which capture public awareness of care and support and expectations of how it is funded. Some data are already available and the next set will be available at the start of 2016. Together, these steps will inform the ongoing implementation and policy development process that will take place in the years to come. I hope that is helpful to my noble friend and provides him with some reassurance.

We are currently consulting about the design and implementation of the funding reforms. Through this we are seeking views about how best to raise awareness of these reforms nationally and locally. We will consider the responses carefully before deciding on the way forward. I can assure the House that this will include a role for the department nationally.

The next part of Amendment 20 would introduce a regulation-making power to specify circumstances where local authorities must, and where they may, make referrals to financial advisers regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Given that quite a bit of the ground covered in this amendment was discussed at length earlier in the debate, and relates to a number of government amendments which have been accepted by the House, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not rehearse all the arguments they have already heard.

The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, emphasised the importance of people understanding the various products that are available. We agree that, in some instances where someone is considering a financial product such as a care annuity, financial advice should be regulated through the Financial Conduct Authority. However, there are many sources of valuable financial advice that do not need to be regulated and can be provided free of charge—such as advice on managing money from the citizens advice bureaux or from the Money Advice Service. In addition, the fact that financial advice is regulated does not mean that it is appropriate for care and support purposes. Very few regulated financial advisers currently have a qualification or expert knowledge of care and support, though we hope that this sector will develop over the coming months and years. In this context, the term “independent financial advice” covers both regulated and non-regulated advice.

The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, also asked about the regulation of advisers in this particular field and what we are doing about this. The regulation of financial advisers comes within the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority. We have opened up discussions with the authority and with the Association of British Insurers on the regulation of financial products and advice.

From the comments of the noble Lord, I took it that he accepted that it would be inappropriate to require local authorities to make direct referrals where, for the most part, they do not possess the necessary expertise to judge between advisers. Requiring them to do so would present a significant burden and could result in a local authority making an unnecessary or inappropriate referral. There is the further risk that a referral leading to poor advice could be seen as the fault of the local authority, a point he acknowledged, bringing yet more of a burden of responsibility in increased disputes, and even legal challenge. We believe that the decision to take up financial advice, of whatever form, and the choice of adviser, should belong to the individual and not to the local authority.

In respect of the third limb of the amendment, about housing, this is very similar to Amendment 15 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best, which we have already discussed. If the noble Lord has any further concerns, I should of course be happy to speak to him separately.

With regard to the provision of information and advice to people with specific health conditions, this is primarily the responsibility of the NHS. For example, there is a wealth of tailored health and social care information on the NHS Choices website that is public-focused and available to local authorities to use however they see fit. Health and housing are, of course, vital for people using care and support. Clause 3 puts local authorities under a duty to promote the integration of care and support with health and health-related services. The House has accepted Amendment 12 to clarify that this incorporates housing, which includes joining up the provision of information and advice. We will address this in detail through statutory guidance.

I hope that this persuades at least some noble Lords that these issues are all being considered very seriously by the Government, as we work with local authorities and others to implement the reforms. On that basis, I hope that they feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Photo of Lord Lipsey Lord Lipsey Labour

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and for the positive things that he said from which we can draw encouragement. I was particularly pleased to hear him talk about the national role of the department in information provision and confirm that there will be campaigns around landmarks in the Dilnot report to carry that forward. Equally, there are some things on which, if I may say so, he still is not quite there. Nobody advocates direct referrals—nobody. I accept his argument—everybody does—that you cannot just send people to say, “You have to go and see so and so”, or, “So and so is your man”. The other extreme is to say that you do nothing. You provide, for example, a list of suitably qualified advisers within the local authority area; you tell people how to get hold of them. We should not set up straw men, whom nobody is advocating, in order to fend off suggestions that need to be acted upon.

Some things the Minister said would be valuable to follow up in writing. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, will agree with me that it would be fascinating to see the monitoring suggestions as a substitute for the poll that he suggested, because if they work, that is fine and we will not press it, but if they seem to fall short, that would be different. I think that there will be room to ask the Minister for further discussions with the movers of this amendment so that we can narrow even further the ground before us. I do not pretend to be fully satisfied as I stand here tonight. I gave my reasons earlier why I do not think that the Government’s amendments to the Bill complete the picture, but we are making progress, as we all want to, and we are having a good dialogue. With the Minister’s help, I want to carry that forward before Third Reading, at which stage we will see whether an amendment is needed. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 20 withdrawn.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.30 pm.