To ask the Secretary of State for Health
(1) whether his Department has made an estimate of costs associated with local authorities having introduced restrictions on the eligibility criteria for social care;
(2) what support his Department has offered to help local authorities maintain current thresholds for Fair Access to Care criteria;
(3) with reference to his Department's White Paper, Caring for Our Future, what steps he is taking to introduce a new assessment and eligibility framework for social care.
Under the current legal framework, local authorities are free to set their eligibility threshold for adult social care services. Local authorities base their own threshold in response to local needs and circumstances. We have not made any estimate of the costs associated with local authorities having introduced restrictions on the eligibility criteria for social care.
The Government have committed to introducing a national minimum eligibility threshold for adult social care. Provisions to this effect were included in the draft Care and Support Bill, and subject to the passage of legislation, this will be introduced from April 2015. The Government will determine the level of the threshold as part of the Spending Review, which we will announce later in the year. Local authorities will be free to set their eligibility threshold at a more generous level but will not be able to tighten them beyond the national minimum threshold.
The Government also gave a commitment in the White Paper “Caring for our future”, that we will develop and test options for a potential new assessment and eligibility framework. A Steering Group involving all relevant stakeholders will be established in the summer. The Steering Group will develop new models and these will be evaluated over a number of years. The Steering Group will then put proposals to Government and we will consider the feasibility of implementing these.
We know that the last Spending Review provided local government with a challenging settlement. This is why we took the decision to prioritise adult social care, and provide extra funding for local authorities to help in maintaining access to services. Since then, we have provided local authorities with additional resources for social care. However, it is ultimately for local authorities to choose how best to use their available funding.
But we cannot improve care and support by putting ever more money into the system. We have already seen examples of local authorities redesigning services to find more efficient ways of working. Many local authorities are innovating and achieving much greater integration between health and care services, thereby improving care for people and optimising use of resources available.