White Paper 'an important milestone'

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
Date: Tuesday, March 30 2010
Embargo: Immediate

Social care leaders have welcomed today's Government White Paper on the future of adult care as 'a milestone of the first importance' towards creating a well-funded and fairer system of providing care and support to adults and older people 'according to need, and not to means'.

According to ADASS President Jenny Owen: "there is still much anxiety, given the burgeoning economic difficulties facing public services, and we shall be looking closely at the government's impact assessment and figures to see how the plans have been costed. But there can be no doubting the proposals' far-reaching ambition, nor the difference they would make, if fully achieved, to the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people."

Stressing that the impetus to provide solutions to the 'pressing problems' facing adult care services should be maintained, she welcomed:

  • The government's commitment to a universal National Care Service (NCS) free at the point of need and not according to means. "Recognising that this will be achieved via the leadership role provided by local authorities is especially important and will bring enormous advantages," she said
  • The three-staged journey leading to a fully-fledged NCS to be created post-2015 is equally welcomed. Ms Owen's concern here was not with the principle, but rather the difficulties of "managing this difficult interim period where pressures on public sector budgets will be at their highest"
  • The setting up of a National Leadership Group to provide advice to Ministers as they proceed to legislation. The ADASS President welcomed, and pledged her support for this Group, as well as welcoming the decision to make closer integration with the National Health Service focused on outcomes.
  • The creation of a cross-party Commission to determine which of the funding options should be used. "It is crucial that this Commission is brought together, and reaches a conclusion that is then acted upon," she said. "A second failed Commission process would be quite intolerable."

She was glad, though, that the government is insisting on the comprehensive funding option the one that ADASS has endorsed and that a 'sensible' decision had been made in relation to the Attendance and Disabled Living Allowances.

  • The greater stress on improving the quality of services and the maintenance of a focus on Putting People First, and personalised budgets.

She emphasised, however, that in the light of the Association's survey conducted earlier this month, the government must take steps to ensure that it is properly costed, and that if it is to be a genuinely national service then it would have to be funded nationally and not as free personal care has been resourced in part from local government efficiency savings. She stressed, too, the importance of keeping in sight the needs of people with physical and learning disabilities as well as adults with mental health problems.

Further exploration, she said, was needed of the workforce regulation changes being put forward by the government particularly those which saw the splitting of the General Social Care Council into a General Social Work Council and a Care Professions Council. Equally, although she supported the creation of an independent body to provide information and guidance to adult social care services, 'it should be seen in terms of a strengthened Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE),' she thought.

Ms Owen said that people might look back on today's White Paper and see in it another 'Beveridge Moment' if all the important factors they have assembled can be brought together at the right time, in the right way. "There are no guarantees that this White Paper will see the light of legislative day," she warned. "Nor that the principles and objectives it embraces will be achieved in the timescale set.

"But it is an important signpost to ultimately what could become a fairer and better supported future for many, many older people and adults with disabilities. It will be up to the next government, whatever its party-political complexion, to make sure that the challenges it sets forth are faced up to, and met."

For further information contact:
Jenny Owen, ADASS president, 01245 434806
Drew Clode, ADASS Policy/Press Adviser, 020 8348 5023/07976 837755
Pictures of Ms Owen available on request