My Lords, I shall speak also to government Amendment 63A and my Amendment 63B. Before I begin, please forgive me for my speech going in stops and starts. This is the result of being an astronaut: we speak like this.
Noble Lords will know from my Private Member’s Bill, the Social Care Portability Bill, as well as my contributions to debates on this Bill, the depth of my concern about continuity of care when an older or disabled person moves to another local authority. It is a basic human right to move freely within one’s country, whether to pursue education or employment opportunities, to improve one’s family life or to seek personal support. The Government have said on several occasions that my Private Member’s Bill has informed the provisions of this Bill. It is true and I am grateful to have helped; I must say that I am also a bit flattered. We have collaborated well and I firmly believe that workable continuity of care is in sight.
The Minister for Social Care said to me in a letter last week:
“I believe that we are both of one mind and that neither of us wants a situation where there are no services in place on the day of the move, which could result in the person falling into crisis”.
I believe that too. Throughout the passage of this Bill, my two main areas of concern have been the need for a reference to outcomes in the continuity provisions and the risk of a gap in provision of care and support. We have made good progress on the second of these concerns since Committee. I am heartened by this.
Amendment 63ZA is about equivalence of outcomes. This goes to the heart of what continuity of care is about. The underlying purpose is to enable the person who moves to do the same kinds of things in their day-to-day life as they currently do. It may not always be possible and it may be through different means, but that is the aim. Certainly there are references linking plans to outcomes elsewhere in the Bill, and that is very welcome. However, signalling the intention in Clause 37 would send a clear and powerful message which could not be misconstrued by those providers who have an “I-know-what’s best-for-the-client” attitude. That is why I have tabled this amendment.
My second amendment addresses safe and seamless transition from one authority to another. The Bill says that if the second authority fails to deliver a new care package by the day of the move, it has to meet the needs that the first authority has been meeting until it has put the new arrangements in place. This is a temporary measure to ensure there is no gap in the provision of care.
I have been concerned that, just as the new care package may not be ready in time, as Clause 38(1) acknowledges, there may also be a delay in the temporary measures, which would mean a risky gap in care and support. My amendment proposes that, in those circumstances, the first authority would have to continue to provide care until the new arrangements were in place. I remain of the view that this would provide the strongest guarantee of continuity.
The Government, however, have proposed instead a new amendment, Amendment 63A, to improve co-ordination between the person moving and the two local authorities—in effect acknowledging the importance of a dialogue between all three parties. Certainly, both local authorities working together to prepare for the person’s move is a good template for success. The amendment will require the first authority to contact the second authority and maintain this relationship until the person moves. It will also require the first authority to keep the person involved so that they are fully aware of the arrangements in advance of their move. While this is not the solution I favour, I recognise that it will help to strengthen the process by bolstering the degree of collaboration and coordination between the authorities. That would go a long way towards reducing the risk of an interruption in care and support. It would also reassure and empower the person moving.
Throughout my campaigning life, “Nothing about us without us” has driven everything. This duty is a commendable endorsement of that approach. I believe that it would be enhanced by a further small change: that the first authority remain in contact with the second authority until the new care package is in place. This would ensure a smooth transition during any temporary arrangements, when the individual would be at their most vulnerable. Moreover, it would help the second authority, which has to meet the needs that the first authority has been meeting. I believe this fine-tuning of the Government’s helpful amendment would speed up the transition and support the way that Clause 38 is intended to operate.
After some negotiation last week, I believe I reached an understanding with the Minister and his officials that there will be a review of the continuity-of-care provisions after three years. These are new responsibilities for local authorities, and it is right that we should know whether they are working and take action if they are not. I look forward to the Minister’s confirmation of this in his response.
Moving house is one of the most stressful days of your life. Let us give disabled people the confidence to move and, hopefully, improve their circumstances. To do that, they require three things: first, knowing that support is there; secondly, the knowledge about the process to reassure them during a time of potential anxiety; and, thirdly, the certainty that they can live their lives in the same way with the same outcomes in their new environment.
I am pleased that the Government have travelled a fair way in tabling their amendment and have made significant progress in strengthening the transition process. I very much look forward to being involved in the next stage of the portability journey. I believe that we are about to have the portability celebrations but the cake has not yet been finished. If we get this right, I will feel free to chase my dream of moving to the Cornish coast when I eventually retire, which will not be yet. I beg to move.