The Care Act can seem overly complex – but you can make it simpler

Featured article - 10 February 2016
By SCIE's Ewan King, director of business development and delivery

Head-shot of the author, SCIE's Ewan King, director of business development and delivery

When I joined the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), one of the first tasks I was given was to read the Care Act 2014 Guidance – it stretched to well over 400 pages.

SCIE at that point had been commissioned by the Department of Health and the Local Government Association to produce a suite of resources to support its implementation; so I was more than a little worried. How do we translate this powerful, yet far reaching and detailed set of reforms, into accessible tools and resources for front line workers?

Our tools have long since been published, and are widely accessed by the sector, but people are still struggling in many parts of the country with the implementation of the Care Act. We hear regularly from front line staff involved in our training programmes that whilst they agree with what the Care Act is trying to achieve, it can be difficult to pin down what its different components mean in practice.

One told me:

There is a lot in there – personalisation, wellbeing, assessment and eligibility, advocacy, safeguarding to name a few….what does it mean for a person in my role?

And of course, this isn’t really very surprising. Not only do Local Authorities have to implement the most ambitious and far reaching set of reforms to social care since the Beveridge report (1942), but they have to do it at a time of significant financial challenges and growing demand on them for services. And in many local authorities, while the principles of the Care Act are being taken forward, the changes needed to systems, processes, IT and structures needed to realise these principles have lagged behind.

One message we get a lot from front line staff is that they can find it difficult to understand what the Care Act – with its multiple duties and principles – means for them. Yes, they welcome the Act, and indeed, support what it is trying to achieve. By in large, it remains a very popular set of reforms. But that does not mean that they immediately grasp how they deliver the Care Act in practice, far from it.

Faced with this problem, I was impressed with one of ways Warwickshire County Council has responded. It has produced a very simple Pocket Guide for Staff (pictured). This handy document sets out at a very high level what staff need to know about the Care Act in as few as words as possible and in accessible language. It explains the Wellbeing Principle, the Adult Eligibility Threshold, what a strength-based assessment entails and the Safeguarding Principles. If I were working for them, I would certainly use it.

Of course, this is just a small measure. In the grand scheme of things, the quality of leadership locally, the quality of training and supervision that is in place, and the quality of systems and process, matter more. But as in other walks of life, sometimes it can be simple things that make a difference.

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