Report (2nd Day)

Part of Care Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 14th October 2013.

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Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench 3:30 pm, 14th October 2013

My Lords, Amendment 41 is a probing amendment, so I will speak briefly. Before I say anything else, I applaud the Minister for the raft of amendments in this group. I was particularly pleased to see the amendments in relation to young carers, although this is not relevant to Amendment 41. However, government Amendments 32, 33, 36 to 38 and—perhaps in particular—39 and 40 are, of course, relevant to this amendment. My Amendment 41 requires that regulations that make further provision for carrying out a needs or carers’ assessment will specify the circumstances in which a person’s social care needs are to be regarded as complex—the amendments do not refer to that term, so I would like a further clarification of that—and that having defined “complex needs”, social workers should always be involved in the assessment of cases meeting that criterion. That is the proposal of the College of Social Work. I should say that the involvement of a professional social worker does not mean the exclusion of all others. Clearly, if a professional social worker is dealing with a deafblind person, he would need to involve a specialist in that particular group of disabilities.

The college makes the first point that a good assessor sets out to create a complete picture of a person’s situation, strengths, capabilities and aspirations. Social workers are trained and recruited on the basis that they have the necessary cognitive and emotional depth to undertake those assessments. The second point is that people with complex needs generally have an awful lot of different services to which they need to relate if all their complex needs are to be met. The role of the care co-ordinator therefore becomes vital in those situations; care co-ordinators tend to be professional social workers.

As the noble Earl knows, the Law Commission argued that where a person has complex or multiple needs, a proportionate assessment would require an in-depth and comprehensive exploration of those needs. It is difficult to imagine that somebody other than a professional social worker would be equipped to do that. The types of situation which would be treated as complex cases include: where a person is subject to legislation or national guidance; where a person is or may be subject to abuse; where there is conflict between a person and a member of their family or their carer; and where there is a need to support the applications of individuals or their families for continuing healthcare funding.

Government Amendments 32, 33, 39 and 40 could pave the way for regulations which would meet the concerns addressed in Amendment 41. The noble Earl will know that our particular concern is for clients with learning difficulties, mental health problems and, in particular, dementia—people whose needs will be quite complex and difficult to assess. You need people who have been trained in that sort of work. Can the Minister say, with respect to these vulnerable groups, whether regulations will clarify their need for a professional social work assessment, albeit involving others as well? If regulations will not deal directly with the assessment of people with complex needs, and in particular with those who have all those mental health problems, can the Minister explain what provision he plans to make in order to ensure that the needs of these particularly vulnerable people will be properly assessed and addressed?