Report (2nd Day)

Part of Care Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 14th October 2013.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 3:45 pm, 14th October 2013

In moving Amendment 49, I wish to speak also to the other government amendments in this group, Amendments 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 59 and 169. We are currently consulting on the detail of our reforms to care and support funding, including charging. This consultation and the accompanying engagement are looking at key issues around future charging for adult care and support. We need to ensure that the Bill has sufficient flexibility to take account of the views expressed through this consultation and the on-going engagement. This work has highlighted areas where the Bill as drafted may not be sufficiently flexible. I turn to my Amendments 49, 51 and 52 concerning local flexibility in charging policies.

Currently, local authorities are free to set their own charging policies for non-residential care. The intention was to create a more consistent framework for charging across local authorities. However, there was uncertainty whether the regulation-making powers as drafted would have allowed local authorities to contribute towards the care and support costs of people who have resources above the financial limits. A rule which prohibits local authorities from making any contribution towards the care costs of such people would restrict the ability of local authorities to use different arrangements when these would best meet local needs. For example, local authorities sometimes subsidise services such as telecare. We wish to allow this to continue and do not want to require local authorities to charge people the full cost of these services.

My other amendments, Amendments 50, 53 and 54, concern circumstances in which a financial assessment has not taken place or a local authority considers that a full assessment is unnecessary. We wish to encourage people to undertake financial assessments because this will enable local authorities to charge them a fair contribution towards their care costs. However, we recognise that some people are likely to refuse to undergo a financial assessment; for example, someone may be unwilling to allow the local authority to access their financial information. In order best to promote these people’s well-being, it may be appropriate for local authorities to arrange care on their behalf. The local authority would be able to charge individuals the full cost of this care and any arrangement fee.

These amendments will therefore allow regulations to enable local authorities to broker care on behalf of people who do not wish to undergo a financial assessment. The regulations will also make provision for light-touch financial assessments where a full financial assessment would not be proportionate, such as for low-cost care packages, in particular for carers. Regulations and guidance will be designed to ensure that such assessments are used appropriately.

The remaining government amendments in this group ensure that all those who should get an independent personal budget receive one and that the regulation-making powers retain their intended flexibility. I hope noble Lords agree that the additional flexibilities provided for by these amendments will equip local authorities with the tools they need better to promote individual well-being and that noble Lords can therefore support my amendments. I beg to move.