Latest Public Sector News

31.07.14

New safeguarding rules could cost £88m a year – LGA

Potential changes to the rules which govern how local authorities safeguard people receiving care and support could generate a ten-fold increase in assessments, drive costs up by at least £88m and lead to longer waiting times, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

It and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) have written to the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, stating that although they support the broadening of criteria for assessments under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), if the funding issue is not resolved, the significant “impact on budgets will have an unavoidable and hugely damaging impact on crucial services that protect the most vulnerable people in our society”.

The DoLS are a set of rules which are designed to ensure that people who lack mental capacity are cared for in the least restrictive way possible, taking into consideration their safety and wellbeing. However, earlier this year, in the Cheshire West case, the Supreme Court’s judgement established a new ‘acid test’ for the deprivation of liberty encompassing many more people than was the case with previous rulings.

The effect of the judgment is that there may be thousands of people who are being deprived of their liberty and many more who have been assessed as not being deprived of their liberty who need to be reassessed.

Though the government has rejected calls to scrap DoLS, which were introduced in 2009, it has promised more support for practitioners in dealing with the current context including:

  • An ambition for all registered social workers to be trained in the MCA
  • A review of existing practice guidance on the MCA to check whether it is fit for purpose and identify any gaps
  • A task group to examine the implication of the Supreme Court ruling for councils
  • Up to date guidance on deprivation of liberty case law and the streamlining of Dols forms

Cllr David Sparks, LGA chair, said: “Our main concern will always be making sure that the most vulnerable people in our society are kept safe. We all want to be sure that when our partners, our parents or our families need care, we will be able to access the right level of care at the right time.

“We completely agree with the principle of having broader, more robust checks, but the government needs to fund councils properly so that we have the time and money to do this or there will be negative consequences on other social care services which people rely on.”

A survey undertaken at the request of the Court by ADASS estimates that the assessments under the MCA DoLS for individuals will increase from a projected figure of 13,719 in 2013-14 to projected figures of over 138,000 in 2014-15 and nearly 176,000 in 2015-16 in hospitals and residential settings.

ADASS president David Pearson said: “In any changes that are made, we need to make sure that the best interests of the most vulnerable in our society are identified and met.

“This is not all about money, we also need to see urgent changes to the law which make sure that the system is clear for people to use and ensures that all people are treated the same throughout the safeguarding process, whether they are living in residential care homes, hospital settings or in the community.”

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