Law Commission report urges revamp of ‘outdated and flawed social care laws’

In 1948 the then Labour Government introduced the National Health Service (NHS) and some 60 years later, for all its problems, the NHS Service is still going strong – but it was not the only part of the then Government’s mandate to provide care for all.

Also in 1948, it introduced the National Assistance Act, the first of 40 in the last 60 years dealing with the care of the elderly and the vulnerable.

Yesterday, the Law Commission released the first of two reports due this year commissioned by the Government in respect of an overhaul of social care generally. Interestingly, Wales is looking at its own social care provisions separately.

The report states that the present 40 acts are ‘outdated and flawed’ and there should be a single piece of legislation so people are very clear about their rights.

To show just how outdated these laws are, section 29 of the National Assistance Act 1948 contains language to describe disabilities that would it would be inconceivable to use today, but the Act remains on the Statute Books.

On top of these two reports, an independent commission has been set up by the Government to look at how social care, which is currently means tested, should be funded. This report is due in July, and will be followed by a White Paper at the end of the year.

Since 1948 there have been literally thousands of pages of guidance, and the Commission has reported that this has simply resulted in a system that is confusing for users and at times simply contradictory.

As well as the report stating that one single act of parliament needs to be in place, the report also states that whereas there’s no law presently placing a duty on councils to support elderly people, they do have legal obligations to look after those with disabilities and mental health issues. The recommendations call for a duty for councils to assess also the needs of carers and also recommend that the NHS and local government should work together more closely.

The Government’s view, given by care services minister Paul Burstow, is that the recommendations would be carefully looked at and ‘this report provides foundation for the most significant single reform of social care law in 60 years’.