Headlines: February 24th, 2010

The most radical shake-up of adult social care law for more than 60 years is being proposed today by the Law Commission, which says overhauling the present outdated legislation governing the care provided to elderly and disabled people will save unnecessary red tape, delays, litigation, and public money.

The Commission, which advises the Government on law reform, is suggesting wide-ranging proposals including clearer rights for the estimated six million carers who look after elderly and disabled friends and relatives. The law governs how an individual’s needs are assessed, eligibility and what services are provided but current regulations are spread across 38 Acts of Parliament with most services still delivered under a law of 1948.

In its report the Commission says this causes confusion, delay and inconsistency. It is proposing a single, clear and modern law. Other suggested measures include establishing a core set of principles to guide social care decisions, a single and explicit duty to assess individuals’ needs and placing a duty on local authorities to provide community services for all those who are eligible. Councils would also have a statutory duty to investigate cases where they suspect that vulnerable adults are being abused or neglected.

Frances Patterson QC, the Law Commissioner leading the project, said: “We are developing recommendations for reform to ensure that disabled people, older people, carers, and professionals working in the field can be clear about users’ and carers’ rights to services.”

The review does not look at the funding of adult social care and is independent of current Government proposals relating to how to pay for care for older people. Consultations on the proposals will run until the end of June.