My Lords, the changes that the Government have made concerning assessments are very welcome. I particularly thank the Minister for the careful and considered way in which he listened to the issues around young carers, and particularly the way in which these now mesh with the Children and Families Bill, which was a concern to many of us. That is very welcome.
Amendment 32, which removes the reference to support available from families and friends, is particularly welcome. Disability and carers’ organisations have very serious concerns that the original wording would lead to local authorities making assumptions about what families could provide without conducting a thorough assessment of a person’s needs and then carefully considering how those needs could best be met, particularly taking into consideration the family’s willingness to provide that care.
Amendment 33 also includes a requirement that when an assessment is carried out it is also considered whether the person would benefit from prevention services or from information and advice. That greater emphasis is also very welcome. However, I would like the Minister’s comments on one concern about Amendment 33. It refers to,
“which might be available in the community”.
If this wording is included in the Bill, it is vital that strong guidance is given to local authorities not to run the risk of negative, unintended consequences. There will be guidance, regulations and assessments, as we know. What assurances can the Minister give that community services will not be seen as an automatic alternative to statutory services and will not therefore create a further barrier for those in need of statutory support?
Can the Minister assure me that guidance will make it clear that local authorities cannot make assumptions about the availability and appropriateness of other support from community services and whether it is wanted by the disabled or older person? The Government have made it clear that they do not intend local authorities to look to families and friends to provide care and support, potentially taking on a greater caring role. Can the Minister give assurances that local authorities should also not be looking to families and carers to provide more care as a get-out clause, if you like, from providing statutory services? This is particularly important given the great variability in so-called community services from area to area and, of course, the huge stress on local authority budgets, which is a fact of life for all local authorities at present.