The funding panel policies testing the limits of the Care Act : Community Care

A Community Care analysis of council policies and procedures for funding panels operating in adult social care has revealed that some are testing the limits of the Care Act 2014.

A freedom of information (FOI) request was sent to English councils asking for the terms of reference documents for any panels in their adults’ services department, and any policy or practice guidance supplied to social workers about how to submit or present cases to these meetings.

A survey also ran on Community Care over the summer asking adults’ social workers to tell us about the most recent case they took to the panel in their local authority.

This research follows our earlier investigation, which suggested funding panels were being used beyond their intended purpose, as set out in the Care Act statutory guidance.

We found then that social workers were concerned panels were being used to prioritise cost savings over peoples’ needs and, in some cases, override their professional recommendations. An FOI request also found more than 20 English councils were sending all requests for new or changes to existing care packages to a panel, which legal experts have since warned is potentially unlawful.

Our latest analysis shows that the policies referenced in some funding panels’ terms of reference documents could leave councils open to legal challenge. Three social workers also told us in detail about their experience of the last case they took to panel.


Our latest FOI request received responses from 107 of England’s 152 local authorities. Of this, 60 councils said they had a terms of reference in place for the panels they operate, and 55 provided us with a copy of the relevant documents.

We analysed 11 councils’ terms of reference documents


Source: The funding panel policies testing the limits of the Care Act : Community Care

‘Social workers’ caseloads should be managed to provide more time for assessments under Care Act’

Original post from Community Care

‘…..Practitioners need to understand more about the person and their community to implement the strengths-based approach to assessment envisaged by legislation, says guide

Picture credit: Burger/Phanie/Rex Features

Picture credit: Burger/Phanie/Rex Features

Social workers’ caseloads should be managed to give them the time to adopt a “strengths-based approach” to assessing people’s needs under the Care Act 2014.

Practitioners should be given more time to prepare for assessments and to research community resources to enable them to put a strengths-based approach into practice from 1 April, when the act comes into force.

What is a strengths-based approach?

That was one of the key messages from a guide to strengths-based approaches to assessment published by the Social Care Institute for Excellence this week as part of its government-funded programme of work to support Care Act implementation.

The guide defines a strengths-based approach as one that takes into account how the person’s capabilities, knowledge, social network and community resources can help them meet their care and support needs and desired outcomes.

This is enshrined into the act’s provisions on assessing adults and carers, under sections 9 and 10, which require assessors to consider how community resources and matters other than care and support can help the person achieve their desired outcomes. The statutory guidance under the act stresses that this involves taking into account the person’s strengths.

What makes a good assessment?

The Scie guide says that a good strengths-based assessment involves thorough preparation, building trust with people, a recognition that it will take more than one session to conclude the assessment and a knowledge and awareness of community resources with which to connect people.

It says this requires social workers to get to know the resources in the communities in which they work, meaning that managers should

Managers will need to make changes to working practices, including workloads, to accommodate a strengths-based approach, to allow for the fact that assessments may take longer.

“Practitioners must prepare assessments thoroughly,” it says. “Time for preparation of assessment should be taken into account for performance purposes and definition of workloads.”

Social workers will need to get to know the resources in the communities in which they work, meaning that managers should also give practitioners more time to build up knowledge and awareness of community resources.

Freeing up time

This means management will have to look at ways of freeing up time for practitioners to invest in strengths-based approaches. The guide suggests the following:-

  • encouraging people to undertake supported self-assessments of their own needs, as allowed by the Care Act 2014, though in such cases the local authority must assure itself of the accuracy of the assessment;
  • using third party organisations to provide “trusted assessors” to carry out assessments instead of in-house social workers;
  • streamlining processes, for instance by removing the need for assessments to be always signed off by panels or managers.

Increase in volume of assessments

However, local authorities also face a significant increase in the volume of assessments they will be required to carry out in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Councils are expected to have to undertake an additional 250,000 carers’ assessments in 2015-16 because of the reduced threshold for an assessment introduced by the act. In 2016-17, they are expected to have to undertake an additional 330,000 assessments of self-funders looking to qualify for council-funded support under either the  cap on care costs or the more generous means-test for residential care that will be introduced from April 2016. The government is allowing councils to start assessing this group from October 2015 to manage pressures.

While central government has provided funding to meet these additional costs, there are concerns over whether the funding will be sufficient. Any shortfall could undermine local authorities’ ability to invest in allowing social workers to conduct more strengths-based assessments.


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