My Lords, I welcome how far the Minister has moved from Committee to today. I hope that noble Lords will not think it churlish of me to say that perhaps he might be persuaded to move a little further. I will speak first to Amendment 60, which seeks to oblige a local authority to provide advice and information about what can be done in the event of an emergency, or if needs change. I am specifically talking about what I think we have referred to before as people with fluctuating conditions and needs. We know that there are many millions of people in the country who have fluctuating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, Crohn’s, colitis, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, and there may be many others. Therefore, we are talking about a significant number of people who will be affected by the provisions of this Bill.
Not long ago I was talking to a woman in a wheelchair who had MS. She was very lively, bubbly and sparky, and she said to me: “You know, I’m not always like this. Some days I go down and I can’t even get out of bed, so don’t judge my condition by the way you see me today”. I took that very much to heart, and it is clearly the sort of situation that this amendment is about. As the Bill is currently drafted under Clause 25, it would not really make provision for such situations.
This amendment is actually operationally simple. It would help to ease the pressure placed on formal and informal carers, and would give them more certainty. Not only will it ensure that individuals get the timely care that they need when they need it but, equally importantly, it has the potential to prevent costly and unnecessary hospital admissions. If this amendment is not in place, there is always the possibility that with a downward fluctuation in condition, the person without the support will then have to be hospitalised. That in itself is costly and is utterly undesirable from the point of view of the person who could be helped in the home if this amendment were to be passed.
Local authorities are surely in a position to provide better tailored care, to promote confidence and control and allow people to prepare for such rises and falls in their care needs. The current drafting does not allow for it. A snapshot was taken by the NRAS—the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society—which indicated that currently more than 30% of respondents with rheumatoid arthritis have been admitted to emergency care as a result of a flare-up in the disease in the past year. This is something which I trust could be prevented if we changed the way in which this clause was to operate. A survey of 1,000 people with MS revealed that 95% of respondents felt that better services during a relapse or a sudden deterioration of their condition would help them to maintain their independence. More than 80% said that they want to be able to plan their care and support in advance of that care being required. This amendment would help people whose conditions might suddenly worsen and, as I said earlier, would potentially prevent unnecessary and costly hospital admissions.
I turn to Amendment 61. As the wording of the Bill in Clause 27 states, local authorities have the power to generally review care plans. However, they are not required to specify when they anticipate that these reviews will take place. This amendment seeks to put some certainty into the process. There should be an agreed date between the adult and the local authority upon which a review of the care and support plan would be offered. I envisage a discussion between the local authority and the person concerned about the best way in which their care needs can be met.
An anticipated review date, agreed between the local authority and the adults, would provide stability and certainty to those being cared for. It is not a large change but it would be beneficial for the people concerned. I do not want to spell out with examples where people have said what a difference it would make if they had this element of certainty. I would like this amendment to be passed, which will give the adult the confidence that their care would continue as agreed until the specified date or until the adult themselves chooses to request a review in line with Clause 27(1)(b).