At the heart of United Response’s work lies the belief that people we support are equal participants in society who should have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

This is the vision we work towards and the reason we exist - but equal participation cannot happen without an adequate and appropriately funded care system.

It is widely recognised by stakeholders, members of the Government and political parties at Westminster that the UK social care system is seriously underfunded and, as a result, is not fit for purpose.

Today, United Response submitted proposals to the Department of Health (DoH)’s consultation on the cap on care costs and policy proposals for a new appeals system under the Care Act.

United Response submission to the Department of Health

The submission made clear that, in addition to providing adequate care and protecting the assets and income of the UK’s ageing population, the cap on care must address the requirements of people who develop care needs earlier in life, and protect their assets and income in a fair and proportionate way.

Specifically, the submission urges the DoH to ask the next government for a wider funding envelope with which to implement a cap on care for working age adults in line with Sir Andrew Dilnot’s recommendations. United Response believes that the DoH should have had the option to allow a tiered cap on care for working age adults, in addition to the maintenance guarantee.

United Response is concerned about the financial burden that those people who acquire care needs after the age of 25 and before the age of 66 must meet under these proposals. People who develop an acquired brain injury, early onset dementia or certain mental health needs must all pay up to the full cap of £72,000 towards their care, rather than a tiered cap that takes their age and ability to have saved money into account.

A rigorous appeals system

United Response agrees wholeheartedly with the DoH aspiration for ‘a rigorous appeals process in line with that of, for example, the DWP’; however, United Response does not think that the appeals system as currently proposed is rigorous enough, and therefore needs strengthening.

Under current DoH proposals, local authorities (LAs) themselves can decide if a complaint about an individual’s care assessment constitutes an appeal. United Response suggested that LAs should be required to inform everyone who is means-tested for care that they have the right to appeal a LA’s decision, and that a complaint from an individual or family member should automatically be regarded as a request for an appeal.

Furthermore, we would recommend that LAs are required to abide by decisions made by the Independent Reviewer.

Retrospective assessment

Under current proposals, people who have care needs for life must be assessed as such before the age of 25 in order to be eligible for the zero cap on care for life. In certain circumstances, people with care needs may slip though the net and not be assessed until after the age of 25, even if they have had care needs since childhood.

United Response suggests:

  • a statutory requirement for assessment to be made in a joined up approach so that any request from a health or social care professional, in relation to an individual under the age of 25 and their care needs, would result in a mandatory assessment.
  • reassessments should be available every year from birth until the age of 25 in case the care needs and health of an individual deteriorates during this period.
  • a requirement for provision to be made for people who may have been born with care needs yet are not assessed before they reach 25 to be entitled to a retrospective assessment.

Consider cost of complex care needs

Many of the people United Response support and care for have very complex needs. We are concerned that the additional cost of care for people with complex needs will not be taken into consideration in meeting the cap, and that tops-ups would need to be paid by individuals or their families as a result.

United Response has urged the DoH to strengthen draft regulations about complex needs and subsequent amendments to the independent personal budget.

Take the valuable care of unpaid family carers into account when calculating the cap

United Response, along with other stakeholders, is concerned that the cap does not take into account the unpaid care contribution of family members when progressing towards the care cap. Families should not be at a disadvantage as a result of providing unpaid care. Reforms under the Care Act should take families’ care into account so that it is valued correctly and included when progressing towards the care cap.

Going forward

United Response believes that the purpose of reforms under the Care Act should be to address a social care system that is seriously underfunded and therefore malfunctioning.

Assessment of individuals for care needs, and means-testing their ability to pay from existing assets and income, should be done in a fair and impartial way, and include provision for a stronger, more rigorous and independent appeals process.

The focus of reforms under the Care Act should always be about the UK health and social care system, and for all those that rely on it. We are concerned that these reforms fail to adequately address the cost of care for adults of working age who acquire a care need.

Download the full submission from United Response

John Cooper, campaigns manager.