An ADASS report has called on government to clarify the situation concerning the rights of care home residents to use online forms on council websites to see if they might qualify for the care accounts being introduced as part of the new Dilnot arrangements for funding social care.
Currently, the legal position is unclear, and the report, written by the Association’s Information Management Group (IMG), argues that
“in order for online self-assessment to be implemented, the government will need to make clear in regulations that this is legally permissible including what limitations apply.”
It goes on to examine the practical information system implications of the government’s proposed care funding reforms in the Care Bill currently going through Parliament.
The report says that an estimated additional half a million people will be contacting councils from 2016 for help with the costs of their care – mainly older people – due to the so-called “Dilnot Cap” on total lifetime costs that anyone will have to pay out of their own pocket. The ADASS IMG report concludes that existing computer systems can be enhanced relatively easily to support the extra data.
However, it goes on to argue that a simple enhancement could miss an opportunity radically to improve local authority computer systems for greater efficiency.
Other functions could also be carried out online by people applying for a Care Account on behalf, say, of an elderly parent. They could record income and assets online to check if the council will contribute to care costs before the Dilnot cap is reached.
The current cost of adult social care assessment and review in England is over £2 billion per annum. If only 5 per cent of the workload could be carried out online by some people, that would represent a significant saving – to set against an anticipated 45 per cent increase in demand for eligibility assessments. Leading IT suppliers, though, are confident that their systems could be adapted to enable this.
Under the new duties of the Care Bill, councils will have to maintain a Care Account for anyone whose care needs are high enough to qualify – for the remainder of that person’s life. The Department of Health’s consultation paper Caring for our Future proposes that councils must transfer quite extensive care information between themselves as people move residency.
Original research for the report suggests that a county council may have to handle 15 people every week moving in and/or out of their area with a Care Account. The report makes the case for making the transfer of that information electronic for security and efficiency reasons.
The report’s full recommendations are:
- DH to clarify legal admissibility of online `pre-assessments’
- ADASS, with the Local Government Association, to recommend processes for handling additional self-funder caseload more efficiently including online self-service option
- ADASS IMG to assess options for electronic transfer of data
- ADASS IMG to carry out cost-benefit analysis of options for local authorities to obtain verified NHS numbers.