My Lords, this large group of amendments reflects issues that we covered extensively in Committee. We largely support the amendments as they address the suitability of the extent to which friends and family should be acknowledged in the process of assessment of the needs of adults, carers and young carers for care and support.
The group includes amendments on young carers’ support and assessment needs in relation to the Care Bill and its interface with the Children and Families Bill, about which I spoke last week. I do not intend to go into this issue again, other than to stress our support and relief that young carers are recognised in a joined-up way in both Bills. In particular, we welcome the safeguard in this group of amendments, which ensures that local authorities are able to combine assessments relating to adults being assessed with assessments relating to young carers only with the consent of both. The new provisions also make it explicit that it will be possible to join up care plans with other types of care plan only with the consent of the relevant parties, and we welcome this too.
We were very concerned that as originally drafted, Clause 9, which sets out the assets-based approach to assessment, could have been misinterpreted and used to push greater responsibility for meeting needs from the local authority to carers, family and friends. It blurred the distinction between an assessment being about what the needs are and the ways of meeting them by looking at how needs are met by other ways through the provision of services before any decision about eligibility has been made.
Thankfully, the Government’s amendments addressing this problem are now more in accord with the Law Commission review of adult social care legislation, which made a clear distinction between consideration of care and support needs and how the needs should be met. On specialist assessments, we are pleased to see the amendments upholding the current practice and guidance, which provide for assessments to be undertaken by people with expertise. It is an issue on which the House expressed itself very strongly, especially the need for specialist assessors in the case of people with complex health or mental health needs. The noble Lord, Lord Low, and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, have set out these issues again today very clearly, and I look forward to the Minister’s response to their questions on the outstanding issues.
Finally, I support the intention of my noble friend Lord Dubs in Amendment 60 to ensure that the care and support plan provides contingency planning for an emergency, such as the carer suddenly being ill or unable to provide care. The self-directed assessment model does include discussion on contingency and risk but the extent to which clear provision is covered in the care and support plan is patchy. Indeed, it is not always easy to be specific about what would happen because often the reality is that instant emergency cover is hard to organise when relatives live a considerable distance away or the cared-for person is not able to summon up emergency help. My noble friend is right to reinforce the point about the need for emergency contingency planning, especially where people have fluctuating health conditions, such as MS, rheumatoid arthritis and HIV.
In Amendment 61, my noble friend also underlines the importance of including a review date in the plan. It would be very valuable to require social services departments and providers to be clearer about not just the review date for the plan but what the monitoring and review process is and what kind of client feedback or complaints process there would be, as well as client-carer involvement in assessing quality of care and standards of service. I suspect that very few care plans currently measure up to these requirements and I would be grateful if the Minister could tell me what requirements the Government will place on local authorities and commissioners in this respect.