The report and campaign have effectively highlighted the problem of poor local authority commissioning practices. The Department of Health fully agrees that it is unrealistic to think that 15 minutes is enough time to help people who are older or who have a disability to do everyday things like wash, dress and get out of bed. It is not fair on those who need support and it is not fair on care workers. The report and the accompanying online campaign have been a valuable opportunity to spread this message, and encourage local authority commissioners to change the ways they operate.
There are too many examples of councils buying rushed care visits and the department is working to change this. Better care is needed for the 300,000 people currently receiving home care and for the millions more who will need it in years to come.
This is why, this summer, the department announced the Homecare Innovation Challenge, which has brought together local authorities, care providers and carers to look at how care can be improved, including the way councils buy their services. The department also intends to work with the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) to develop a set of commissioning standards to support local authorities to gauge how effectively they are commissioning services, and to bring about improvement led by the social care sector.
Although ministers were not able to support the amendments suggested in the report, they hope that supporters of Leonard Cheshire Disability’s campaign will be content with the amendment that the House of Lords agreed, which makes it clear that local authorities must consider a person’s wellbeing when arranging their care. Authorities that commission care in ways that force people to choose between being washed and being fed would clearly be failing to meet this duty.
The department will be working over the coming months to develop statutory guidance on commissioning and market shaping, which will be a valuable opportunity to influence local practice.