Headlines: August 20th, 2004

A paper by health minister Stephen Ladyman setting out a new vision for social care, which was due to be published about now has been put on hold. The decision follows publication of the findings of a survey by the Social Care Institute for Excellence which presents differing views of where social care should go in the 21st century.The survey reveals limited radical thinking about services. Responses concentrated on the means of delivering services through processes and systems, rather than the end result. There was also an assumption in responses that the “professional” always does the assessment rather than the individual with support needs.

Responses also showed widespread disinterest in direct payments which give personal cash budgets to people who need care. This allows them to shop around to find the form and quality of care best suited to their needs. The maximum grant is120,000 pounds over 18 months. The direct payment system is designed to encourage voluntary organizations to deliver more social care and to give people who need care the choice of provider. The use of the voluntary sector to deliver public services is considered to be an important lever in driving up the standards of service.

In April 2003 a duty was put on councils to make direct payments to individuals who consent to and are able to manage, with or without assistance. The voluntary organizations work in collaboration with local councils. Local Implementation Groups were set up to create strategic partnerships and they include health, employment services and voluntary organisations representing the broad spectrum of people using services.

The vision will now be developed after further consultation and different ways of doing this are being explored. The next step will be a Green Paper to be issued in the course of the next parliamentary session.