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Review of statutory duties placed on local government - closes 25th April 2011

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kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

The government will take social care "back to year zero" if it removes duties on councils to support service users, it has been warned.

The Department of Communities and Local Government has said it is examining all social care duties of local authorities< as part of a wide-ranging review.

It follows communities secretary Eric Pickles' declaration of war on councils' "barmy rules and regulations".

The department said it was aiming to give local authorities "freedom to operate in a way that meets local needs and priorities".

The public has been asked to judge which duties should be abolished and which should be kept.

Included in the list are duties to:

• Assess people for community care.

• Offer a carer's assessment.

• Consider the needs of disabled people.

• Provide welfare services.

• Investigate suspicions that a child is being harmed.

• Keep a child in care when a care order has been made.

"If anyone thinks the government is not serious in its [right-wing] ideological position then they should check this list," said Peter Beresford, chair of service user organisation Shaping Our Lives.

"It could take us back to year zero."

Family court guardians and lawyers have hit out at the consultation, with one lawyer branding it “sneaky”, “insulting” and “deeply concerning”.
“It is hard to believe that the government could consult on changes to primary legislation in this way. It is so sneaky. And it is insulting to professionals and vulnerable groups that duties of care are even included on this list,” the senior family lawyer said.
Alison Paddle, a social worker and former chair of guardians body Nagalro, said: “I would be extremely worried about any measure that reduces the duty of care towards vulnerable children. If duties are removed, this surely would be a very short-term and ill advised way of cutting local authority responsibilities to fund services. It will be the most vulnerable in society who bear the brunt of the negative effects.”
Paddle is particularly concerned at the inclusion of section 47 of the Children Act 1989: local authorities’ duty to investigate when it is suspected that a child may be suffering harm and to decide whether to take safeguarding action.
“These statutory duties are how children can expect to be protected from harm. They are vital to stop children from actually suffering significant harm, The Children Act was a landmark piece of legislation and it is very worrying to think it might be being looked at in a piecemeal way and chopped up. That would damage the whole fabric of welfare services for children.”

The plans support Pickles's crusade against council red tape. He wrote in The Guardian last year: "It's time to stop councils being smothered by central government and strangled with regional bureaucracy... I personally promise to get rid of all the barmy rules and regulations that take up all their time."

The consultation will close on 25 April.<<

kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

MPs have condemned the government for consulting on the removal of statutory social care duties, branding the moves "terrifying" and "unthinkable".

The Department of Communities and Local Government has said it is examining all social care duties of local authorities as part of a wide-ranging review.< It follows communities secretary Eric Pickles' declaration of war on councils' "barmy rules and regulations".

Statutory duties subject to consultation include the duties to: consider the needs of disabled people; provide welfare services and investigate suspicions that a child is being harmed.

Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan, said she would seek to raise the matter in the House of Commons after Community Care alerted her to the government's consultation - which was uploaded to the DCLG website yesterday, with no public announcement.

"To suggest that the statutory duty to keep vulnerable children and adults safe should be up for consultation is absolutely terrifying. It is astonishing, and quite unbelievable, that the government would even seek views on this. I will look to raise this in the House."

Emily Thornberry, shadow minister for care services, agreed that the consultation was "very worrying" and said she feared that the government would ignore consultation responses and just cut local authority duties as they saw fit.

"It's not alarmist to think that the reason they are consulting on councils shedding their responsibilities for social care is because they may actually do it. They do think the unthinkable and they think it without any shame."

"The very fact that they are opening up this debate is very worrying. This is a very radical government, many of the people in it think they were born to rule but they don't get it right."

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), also condemned the government's consultation in the "strongest possible terms".

Mansuri said the consultation was evidence of a "complete lack of joined-up thinking at government level". "There are already various credible reviews looking at social care and how we can reduce bureaucracy, such as the Eileen Munro review.

"So it makes absolutely no sense that someone like Eric Pickles who is ill-informed about these issues can come along and do this. Where is the joined-up thinking? There is no legitimate reason as to why his department are consulting on this. The government need to work out which departments are responsible for what."

She added: "The government should not even be entertaining this. It is irresponsible and outrageous and threatens to undermine the entire care system in this country. We should not even have to engage with this, but it must be condemned in the strongest possible terms."<

kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

Abolishing councils' legal duties to provide social care would breach human rights law, a lawyer has warned after the government floated the idea<.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is reviewing government duties placed on local authorities<, including all those relating to adults and children's social care.

However, Ed Mitchell, editor of Social Care Law Today and Community Care columnist, warned: "Unless the UK withdraws from the European Convention on Human Rights<, the adult social care system cannot be turned into an entirely discretionary arrangement."

"Court decisions have made it clear that under the European Convention on Human Rights certain people, particularly disabled individuals, have to be helped," he said.


Mitchell said that if councils were left free to decide who was eligible for social care there was a real danger that those people whose rights to assistance were protected under the convention would not be identified.

Abolishing the duties could also breach the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities<, said Stephen Broach, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers<, which specialises in human rights.

The signatories to the convention, including the UK, agree to uphold disabled people's rights to participate fully in society and to safeguard disabled people in situations of risk, among others. "There's a requirement that the maximum available resources should be spent on guaranteeing those rights," he said.

The proposals have met with condemnation from Labour MPs< and the social care sector.

Emily Holzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK, said carers would be shocked the government was considering abolishing rights that they had fought for years to gain.

"I'm concerned because this is a very open consultation and people could comment on some duties that they are not so familiar with," she said.

None of the adult social care duties included on the list could be removed without endangering the safety of service users, according to Stephen Lowe, policy adviser at Age UK. "It's imperative there remains an individual entitlement to social care for many people; it's the system of last resort," he said.

Social worker and blogger Fighting Monsters< said she gasped when she saw the extent of the list of duties under review. "I can see some of these being removed from local authorities so that private companies can step into the gap," she said. "The government want to strip local authorities bare and have already taken many steps in that direction."

"We need our voices to be heard in this consultation," she added.

Related articles

Government could abolish all council social care duties<

MPs furious over Pickles' social care duties consultation<<

kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

Disabled people have “reasons to be very nervous” about a government review which questions whether local authorities should still have a legal duty to assess disabled people’s care needs, say campaigners.

A wide-ranging review led by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) department has “identified” 1,294 statutory duties that have been imposed over the years on local authorities through legislation.

The review says: “While some duties remain vital, others may no longer be needed or may create unnecessary burdens or restrictions on local authorities.”

The duties include a string of social care obligations, such as the duty to assess a disabled person’s care and support needs, and to improve its adult social services when they are found to be “failing” by the Care Quality Commission.

Others include the provision of disabled facilities grants and “short breaks” for carers of disabled children.

Solicitor Frances Lipman, from Disability Law Service, said the government could be planning to “water down” some of the duties, for example by making it harder for a disabled person to secure an assessment of their needs.

She said: “At the moment you just need to have an appearance of need and you get an assessment, even if you may not be likely to get services because your needs are not severe enough.

“There is no absolute entitlement to anything apart from the assessment, which is why it is so important that that remains.
There is not an enormous amount of social care duties, but the ones that are there are quite fundamental.”

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said: “Anything the government is reviewing in that regard must raise concerns because of what they have proposed in other areas.
“Because of the extreme need of individuals who may be affected any restrictive change could have a very serious impact, even if it looks superficially minor.” 

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said there were “a lot of reasons to be very nervous for disabled people” about the review, including “big concerns” over the inclusion of the duty to assess disabled people’s needs.

He said that – in the wake of the government’s “unprecedented” healthcare reforms, which themselves have little support and “clear risks” for disabled people – it was not possible to say that crucial social care duties were safe.

He said: “We really don’t know. Let’s not make any assumptions about what the government will or will not do.” 
The “informal consultation exercise<” closes on 25 April.<