Clause 12 - Assessments under sections 9 and 10: further provision

Care Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 14 Ionawr 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Liz Kendall Liz Kendall Shadow Minister (Health) (Care and Older People) 2:00, 14 Ionawr 2014

I beg to move amendment 87, in clause 12, page 11, line 47, at end insert—

‘() require joint working with organisations with appropriate expertise in exercising local authorities’ functions under sections 9, 10 and 11.’.

Thank you, Mr Bayley, and welcome back to the Chair. I will try to be brief. Amendment 87 would ensure that local councils must work with organisations with appropriate expertise when exercising their function under clauses 9, 10 and 11, which deal with how adults who need care and family carers are assessed. I touched on those matters in my comments before lunch. The reason why local councils must work with other local organisations with relevant expertise is that we know that many community and voluntary groups—including the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, disability organisations such as Scope and Mencap and organisations such as the National Autistic Society and the Royal National Institute of Blind People—have local branches in or close to our constituencies. They have a huge wealth of expertise on which local councils must draw when they assess the people who use services and the needs of family carers.

I think the Minister will agree that that is important, and we wanted to specify that the forthcoming regulations will include that in the guidance. Many councils already try to do so. I know from my experience that local councils are under a lot of financial and time pressure, but unless we ensure that the regulations and the guidance that accompanies them specify that they should work with local organisations, I am concerned that some councils—not my own, of course—will take a quick-fix approach and try to do everything themselves without drawing on the wealth of local expertise. That is the point we are making in amendment 87, and I hope the Minister will agree that the issue should be covered in the regulations and guidance.

Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb The Minister of State, Department of Health

Thank you, Mr Bayley. It is so good to be back after our brief sojourn in the Chamber for Health questions. I hope the shadow Minister accepts the genuineness of my position when I say that I am completely with her regarding the sentiment of the amendment, but we believe that the Bill already provides for what it argues for.

We agree that it is important to encourage local authorities to work alongside all the brilliant organisations that she referred to in the third sector that can contribute to the assessment process. As drafted, the clause provides for a power in regulations that requires local authorities to carry out assessments jointly with an expert or a person of any other specified description in specified circumstances. These will include assessments of deaf-blind people, but we are consulting on what further groups or circumstances the power should apply to. It will ensure that local authorities use relevant expertise to support effective assessments.

Paragraph (f) also provides for a further power allowing local authorities to work jointly with or consult an expert or person of any other specified description before or during the assessment process. That will allow local authorities to engage with individual experts from third sector organisations to assist them in the assessment process. More generally, in clause 78, the Bill allows local authorities to delegate their functions to third parties. Sometimes, outside organisations might be better placed than the local authority itself to carry out some of its care and support functions. For instance, an outside organisation might specialise in carrying out assessments for certain disability groups where the local authority does not have the in-house expertise.

A combination of those provisions already offers sufficient scope to ensure the joint working that the hon. Lady rightly argues for. Indeed, our provisions would go further by being able to require joint working in specified circumstances, rather than providing a more general requirement to work together as in the amendment. That will achieve partnership approaches more focused on the issues and individuals of greatest importance. I therefore hope the shadow Minister agrees that the Bill’s existing provisions meet the objective she seeks and will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Liz Kendall Liz Kendall Shadow Minister (Health) (Care and Older People)

I thank the Minister for his comments. I am grateful for his putting on the record that local councils should draw on expertise from relevant organisations that work with old and disabled people. As long as that is properly reflected in the guidance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.