Background: Commissioning independent advocacy

Published: October 2014
Updated: March 2015

An advocate is truly independent. They’re impartial, they’re available, they’re reliable, they’re person-centred and they’re knowledgeable about the sector.

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This section aims to give you some background about the place of the new advocacy duties in the Care Act 2014.

The Care Act is the most significant reform of social care in more than 60 years, replacing a legal ‘patchwork’ from successive pieces of legislation dating from the beginning of the welfare state. The Act aims to clarify the duties of local authorities and other bodies and ensure people are aware of what care and support they are entitled to.

The Act will limit the amount people have to pay toward their care and will place a duty on local authorities to provide deferred payment schemes to prevent individuals being forced to sell their home to pay for care home fees.

The Act sets national minimum eligibility criteria for access to support, rather than allowing local authorities to decide these for themselves. For the first time, carers will be given rights in law to have their needs assessed and met by local authorities.

Local authorities must offer information and advice to everyone in their area to help them understand their rights, responsibilities and entitlements. At the heart of the Act are the concepts of wellbeing and prevention. All actions taken by local authorities under the Act will be driven by their duty to consider the impact of care needs on people’s wellbeing, as well as a duty to prevent needs arising and consequently having an increasing effect on that wellbeing.

How does the Care Act define wellbeing?

This means that local authorities will need to refocus their activities from providing ‘one-size-fits-all’ services to promoting wellbeing by paying attention to people’s strengths, personalities and connections with the places they live.

Choice is important. Choice should be included ’cause people have different opinions and different views, so choice should be included in this.

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In order for this change in approach to happen, the Act strengthens the voice of people and their carers going through assessment, care and/or support planning and care review processes, as well as those people who are part of a safeguarding enquiry or safeguarding adult review (SAR). From April 2016 (subject to further consultation) the duty to provide independent advocacy will also apply if an individual makes an appeal against a local authority decision.

Involvement and the Care Act

The local authority must:

Local authorities must involve people in decisions made about them and their care and support. Involvement requires a local authority to help people understand how they can be involved, how they can contribute and take part and, in some cases, how they can lead or direct the process. People should be active partners in the key care and support processes of assessment, care and support planning, and review (or safeguarding). The duty to involve applies in all settings, including in the community and in care homes or prisons (apart from safeguarding enquiries and reviews).

However, some people can have substantial difficulty in being involved in the process and do not have an appropriate individual to support them in this. If a person meets both these criteria then the local authority must arrange for an independent advocate to assist them and their involvement.

Local authorities are preparing for the implementation of the Care Act. Many are expecting an increase in demand for assessments, as more people will want to access the system at an early stage to ensure their costs are capped.

This guide will help you to understand your duties under the Care Act and it is hoped will act as a prompt to establishing appropriate services in your local area.

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