My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 76 of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. I also support Amendments 123 and 124. Leonard Cheshire Disability put it so well when it said that it was concerned that the Bill, in placing a number of important and complex duties on local authorities, will have a substantial impact on the lives of older and disabled people without providing appropriate routes for appeal against unjust or factually inaccurate decisions. It says that there is a compelling case for the Government to set up a system to resolve cases where there are disagreements between the local authority and the individual.
When we think of the various ways in which local authorities can impact on individuals who have come within the care system—support eligibility criteria, financial assessment, operation of the cap, charges, personal budgets and the boundary between NHS continuing care and means-tested social care—surely there have to be opportunities for a person to appeal against decisions of the local authority. In Committee, the noble Earl relied first on the current complaints system of local authorities and, secondly, he went on to point out that if a complainant was not satisfied with the response from the local authority, they were then able to refer the case to the Local Government Ombudsman.
However, a complaints system is not really what noble Lords are calling for. Anyone who has seen responses from local authorities to complaints will know that they tend to find in favour of themselves and rarely reopen a question of substance. Noble Lords want an opportunity for a person concerned to put their case and for that case to be considered by a group of people who may be said to be independent of the local authority. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and my noble friend Lord Warner, I am keen on the tribunal approach which deals with social security cases; I have witnessed these cases. Although the noble Earl felt in Committee that these would be expensive, I believe that it is a cost-effective way of allowing people to put their case and for that matter to be decided. I am sure that in the long term it will be more expensive if there is no proper decision. I suspect that we will see lots of judicial reviews being initiated against local authorities. They do not and will not have a proper system for dealing with appeals.
The noble Earl said in Committee that the Government were consulting on processes for providing redress. Although he thought that the results of that review would be available before the Bill had concluded its passage through Parliament, I suspect that that will be too late for your Lordships’ consideration. I therefore hope that the noble Earl might be able to give us some comfort that he will in fact give further consideration to this. I hope that we might return to this point at Third Reading.