The Care Act 2014, which came into effect in 2015, is the legal framework around how local authorities and other parts of the system should protect adults at risk of abuse or neglect. The Act is the most significant reform of care and support in more than 60 years, aiming to put people in control of care and support.
The Act combines various existing pieces of legislation that previously organised how social care was managed in the UK, but clarifies and simplifies them. The aim of the Act is to make sure that the public can understand the structure in place to keep them safe, and give more control to individuals that need support and care.
What does the Act mean?
The most important change is that the act makes it clear what the duties of the local authorities are to put people's wellbeing at the centre of all it does. As part of the act, local authorities must:
- Lead a multi-agency local adult safeguarding system that seeks to prevent abuse and neglect in the first place, and stop it quickly when it does occur
- Make enquiries when they suspect a vulnerable adult may be at risk of abuse or neglect and they need to find out what action may be needed to support and protect them
- Establish safeguarding adults boards. This means the local authorities, the NHS and police, which will work together to develop, share and implement a safeguarding strategy
- Carry out safeguarding adults reviews when someone dies as a result of neglect or abuse and there is a concern that the local authority could have done more to protect them
- Arrange for an independent advocate to represent and support a person who is the subject of a safeguarding enquiry or review
What does this change?
- Makes it clearer for when local authorities have to provide support to people, and aims to ensure a fairer national system
- Changes the way in which local authorities complete assessments with those in need of support
- Introduces new rights to carers which puts them on the same footing as the people they care for. So if a carer is eligible for support for particular needs, they have a legal right to receive support for those needs, just like the people they care for
- There is a greater emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable people in our society from abuse and neglect
- There is a greater emphasis on local authorities to provide clear information and advice to help the public make informed choices and stay in control of their lives
- There is a greater emphasis on existing personal budgets which gives people the power to spend money on care that suits their individual needs
- There are greater regulations on those who provide professional care and support, and tougher penalties on those who do not provide a high enough standard of care and support
- Changes when and how people will be asked to contribute towards the cost of support which has been arranged in conjunction with their local authority
Key principles of the Care Act
The Care Act sets out some 'key principles' on how health and social care professionals should work with you:
- You know best
- Your views, wishes, feelings and beliefs should always be considered
- The main aim of professionals should be on your well-being, on reducing your need for care and support, and on reducing the likelihood that you will need care and support in the future
- Any decisions made should take into account all relevant circumstances
- Any decisions should be made with your involvement
- Your well-being should be balanced with that of any involved family and friends
- Professionals should always work to protect you and other people from abuse and neglect
- Professionals should ensure that any actions taken to support and protect you affect your rights and freedom as little as possible