The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced a new operational framework for local authorities in England, which aims to provide local authorities with information on the DHSC’s approach to enhanced monitoring and support and statutory intervention in adult social care.
It has been developed with input from the Local Government Association, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), Care Quality Commission (CQC) and other Government departments.
The People at the Heart of Care: adult social care reform white paper, published in December 2021, set ou the government’s 10-year vision for adult social care. Following this, the government published the Adult social care system reform: next steps to put People at the Heart of Care implementation plan in April 2023, setting out how we are building on progress in adult social care reform by implementing the highest impact proposals, along with some new commitments.
This includes the new duty for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to independently review and assess the performance of local authorities (authorities) in delivering their adult social care functions, as set out under Part 1 of the Care Act 2014 (Care Act). These assessments will provide a greater understanding of practice and provision at local level, making it easier to see what is working well or not, and make good practice, positive outcomes and outstanding quality easier to spot and share nationally.
CQC will also be under a duty to inform the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (the Secretary of State) if it considers an authority is failing to discharge its functions and to recommend any special measures it considers the Secretary of State should take.
If an authority has not been able to tackle sustained problems, the Secretary of State can use new intervention powers introduced through the Health and Care Act 2022, which commenced in April 2023.
These powers will enable the Secretary of State to intervene where they are satisfied that authorities have failed or are failing to discharge Care Act functions to an acceptable standard.
The government says it expects these powers are likely to be used in the most serious cases – for example, where a serious and persistent risk to people’s safety has been identified, and other forms of support are insufficient to drive improvement. Unlike interventions in children’s social services, there is no power to set up independent trusts.
In response to the new DHSC operational framework, Sheila Norris, Joint Chief Executive of ADASS, said, ‘Good quality adult social care helps thousands of people to stay well and live the life they want every day – but there may be instances where services and support could be better.
‘The framework clearly sets out what will happen if improvements are needed, and it’s good that, in the most cases, councils will get the support they need to lead improvements in care themselves. This is an important step towards creating a care system we all want for the future.
‘We remain concerned though that using single word ratings to assess the work of local authorities is unhelpful and will not do justice to the broad range of responsibilities and services that make up adult social care.’