Fair access to care services (FACS): prioritising eligibility for care and support
The social care and NHS policy context - What does ‘Caring for our future’ say about current and future policy?
The White Paper ‘Caring for our future‘,  which is the basis for the Care Bill, sets out the direction of the government’s policy for adult social care. Three themes run through the White Paper and the draft Bill, as the following quotations from ‘Caring for our future’ show:
‘Personalisation is achieved when a person has real choice and control over the care and support they need to achieve their goals, to live a fulfilling life, and to be connected with society’ (p 18).
‘[W]e should do everything we can – as individuals, as communities and as Government – to prevent, postpone and minimise people’s need for formal care and support. The system should be built around the simple notion of promoting people’s independence and wellbeing’ (p 4).
‘People will be empowered to make decisions about their own care and support through radical improvements to information on the options available to them’ (p 36).
Key elements in the White Paper include the following.
- The Care Bill will in due course replace FACS with a new system for assessing individuals’ and carers’ needs and prioritising eligibility for publicly funded services.
- A national minimum threshold of eligibility for social care support will be introduced for individuals.
- Carers will for the first time have parity with users and will be entitled to receive support on the same basis as the individuals they care for if they meet the national eligibility criteria for carers.
- People will have the security that they will continue to receive care if they decide to move from one local authority to another.
- Every local authority will be required to provide or commission reliable information and advice services to inform individuals and carers about what is available and to help them make choices about the support they want. NHS Choice and Carers Direct now provide information on social care and housing support, and funding will be available for local authorities to update their information services by 2015.
- Local authorities will be given new powers to delegate certain functions, such as assessments.
- Systems for monitoring and improving quality will be introduced to bring adult social care services alongside those used in acute health care.
Under the Care Bill, a new national approach will replace the eligibility framework set out in the ‘Putting people first’ guidance.  It will remove the current banding system described in that guidance, and replace it with a single set of criteria to describe a minimum threshold for eligible needs and a single set of criteria for carers. The government will produce and consult on draft regulations and more detailed statutory guidance about assessment and eligibility processes. The first step is the discussion document ‘Draft national minimum eligibility threshold for adult care and support’.