Clause 61 - Assessment of a child’s carer’s needs for support

Care Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:00 pm ar 23 Ionawr 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Sutton and Cheam 12:00, 23 Ionawr 2014

I beg to move amendment 43, in clause 61, page 51, line 39, after ‘child’, insert ‘has or’.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation, NATO Parliamentary Assembly (President)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 44, in clause 61, page 51, line 40, leave out ‘after the child becomes 18’.

Amendment 45, in clause 61, page 51, line 41, leave out ‘significant’.

Amendment 46, in clause 61, page 51, line 44, at beginning insert ‘where the child is 16 or over’.

Amendment 47, in clause 62, page 53, line 10, leave out subsections (5) and (6).

New clause 5—Child’s carer’s eligibility criteria—

‘(1) Where a local authority is satisfied on the basis of a child’s carer’s assessment that a carer of a child has needs for care and support, it must determine whether any of the needs meet the eligibility criteria (see subsection (6)).

(2) Having made a determination under subsection (1), the local authority must give the carer concerned a written record of the determination and the reasons for it.

(3) Where at least some of a child’s carer’s needs for care and support meet the eligibility criteria, the local authority must—

(a) consider what could be done to meet those needs that are eligible;

(b) ascertain whether the carer wants to have those needs met by the local authority in accordance with this Part; and

(c) establish whether the child needing care is ordinarily resident in the local authority’s area.

(4) Where none of the needs of the carer concerned meet the eligibility criteria, the local authority must give him or her written advice and information about—

(a) what can be done to meet or reduce the needs; and

(b) what can be done to prevent or delay the development of needs for care and support, or the development of needs for support, in the future.

(5) Regulations may make provision about the making of the determination under subsection (1).

(6) Needs meet the eligibility criteria if—

(a) they are of a description specified in regulations; or

(b) they form part of a combination of needs of a description so specified.

(7) The regulations may, in particular, describe needs by reference to—

(a) the effect that the needs have on the carer concerned; or

(b) the carer’s circumstances.’.

New clause 6—Duty and power to meet a child’s carer’s needs for support—

‘(1) A local authority, having made a determination under section 62( ), must meet a carer’s needs for support which meet the eligibility criteria if—

(a) the child needing care is ordinarily resident in the local authority’s area; and

(b) the local authority is satisfied that support would be better provided to the carer under this section than to the carer and/or the child under section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

(2) A local authority may meet a carer’s needs for support if it satisfied that it is not required to meet the carer’s needs under this section.

(3) Where a local authority has carried out an assessment under section 61(1)(b) it must give the carer—

(a) an indication as to whether any of the needs for support which it thinks the carer is likely to have after the child becomes 18 are likely to meet the eligibility criteria (and, if so, which ones are likely to do so), and

(b) advice and information about—

(i) what can be done to meet or reduce the needs which it thinks the carer is likely to have after the child becomes 18; and

(ii) what can be done to prevent or delay the development by the carer of needs for support in the future.’.

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Sutton and Cheam

The amendments are changes that would need to be made to the Bill to pave the way for new clauses 5 and 6. The new clauses are on how we continue to improve the rights of carers and ensure that there is an alignment of responsibility on local authorities in how they deal with carers, regardless of their age or of the circumstance that leads them to be a carer. That is what the group of amendments seeks to do.

The Government have deservedly been commended by organisations such as Carers UK, the Carers Trust and others for breaking new ground for carers. They introduced new rights for adult carers and lowered the threshold for determining the recognition of carers and their entitlement to assessments. We should celebrate those things because they are new. When we deal with legislation of this kind, it is easy to forget about the new things, bank that and move on to the next thing. Having said that, I want to move on to the next thing because there are some important issues outstanding. [Interruption.] Well, we are always asking questions. I did not hear what the Minister said, so I will move swiftly on.

We are discussing the needs of adults, because only adults will be addressed by the Bill. The draft Bill left other carers’ rights to be governed by the carers legislation that has been passed as private Members’ Bills over the years. It is interesting that carers legislation in this country has been prosecuted through Back-Bench initiatives, with Government support. I am proud to have been associated with some of those Bills—my name was attached to at least one.

I put my hands up; I regret that when we looked at these issues in the adult statute I did not look at them as thoroughly as I should have done—this is a confession—but sometimes one gets a second chance in life. I am grateful to the Government for giving me a second chance and asking me to chair the Joint Committee, which allowed me to consider and reflect on the representations we received. The Government have been open to those concerns ever since.

The Joint Committee spotted two issues: first, the issue of young carers, which was addressed by the Children and Families Bill and is currently before the other House, and secondly, the issue of parent carers. That is what this set of amendments is about. The Government have been listening. The Children and Families Bill was amended to give young carers stronger rights to assessment and support. That is a good thing.

That brings me to the issue of parent carers, which I raised on the Floor of the House. We have had exchanges with Ministers in the Department for Education, and I have met the Minister with representatives of Carers UK to talk about this issue. I welcome that engagement with the Minister. It was important that we had it, because when this issue was first discussed in the House of Lords through amendments some unfortunate things were said and links were made between the rights of parent carers and concerns about child protection. That misadvised conflation was caused by a misunderstanding of the situation, and it caused deep offence to parent carers and the organisations that represent them. I have put that in gentle terms, but others could put it more stridently.

The Government are in discussions. They have had round tables with parent carers and their organisations, and they are clearly listening to their concerns. However, it is important that we discuss these matters in this Committee to determine whether they should be dealt with in this Bill or the other Bill. If they are dealt with in the Children and Families Bill there needs to be something in this Bill to link across, not least because of the issue of transitions, which we have just been discussing. We are talking about a category of carer who, along with the person they care for, go through a transition,  which, if the issue is addressed in the Children and Families Bill, will move them from one statute to another. This Bill is about making the system as simple to understand as possible for lay people and professionals, so it behoves us to make it simple to understand where those rights sit. Once all of those changes are made, adult carers and young carers will be covered, but parents will be left in the rump legislation of private Members’ Bills. The Law Commission was clear about the need to reform and consolidate comprehensively and the Joint Committee made that recommendation as well. To get those rights would simplify this area of law and benefit everyone concerned.

If we do not make that change, however, the law would become much more complicated for people to navigate, with the need to refer to the Children and Families Bill for young carers, the rump legislation for parent carers and what will become the Care Act to find the obligations for adult carers. Young carers of a disabled sibling will have greater rights than their parents as a consequence of the changes made so far. I am sure that that is not an intention that the Government signed up to, but an unintended consequence of where we are in the passage of these two pieces of legislation. That can be fixed, however, because neither has completed all of its stages. Similarly, not until a transition, or someone becoming 18, will a parent be deemed to be an adult for the purposes of the Bill we are discussing.

For all of those reasons, I hope that the Minister will give us some words of comfort and indicate the route by which those matters will be resolved so that we can have as clear cut a set of arrangements for parent carers as we now have for adults who care for adults and for children who care for other people. I look forward to the debate.

Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb The Minister of State, Department of Health 12:15, 23 Ionawr 2014

Clauses 61 and 62 intend to provide for timely assessment of those caring for young disabled people approaching adulthood to support the shift from children’s services to adult care. I reflect on the danger that my right hon. Friend pointed out that when one pursues the next thing down the track, one can forget to celebrate the considerable advances we have achieved with this legislation and the Children and Families Bill. He was right to say that the measures already taken have been widely welcomed. He is also right never to be satisfied, because we should always keep on pursuing improvements to the system. When one meets with parent carers and other groups of carers and hears their testimonies, one realises that we have a continuing burden of responsibility to try to improve their lives.

Amendments 43, 44, 46 and 47 would extend the period for assessment of those caring for children to cover children of all ages and skew the focus of the clauses away from planning for adulthood. The Bill is ultimately about the care of adults. While we should try to align the two pieces of legislation, it is important to avoid confusion and to be clear about the responsibilities of each Bill.

New clauses 5 and 6 would extend the Bill’s provisions and introduce a totally new concept of eligibility into children’s services. In the Government’s view, that would be inappropriate. Policy on assessing and supporting children and their families, which includes support for families where that is in the child’s best interests, lies  with the Department for Education. To include provision for those caring for children in a Bill that focuses on provision relating to adults would seem to be a recipe for confusion. We must be wary of simply replicating arrangements for adults caring for adults without understanding the interrelationship with other legislation for children and families—in particular, the provisions under the Children’s Act 1989—as that could lead to those famous unintended consequences.

In the light of debates on the Care Bill and on the Children and Families Bill in the other place, the Government have agreed to work closely with carers’ organisations, parent carers and other stakeholders to review existing legislation, guidance and practice for assessing the support needs of those caring for children. A very constructive round-table discussion took place on Friday 10 January—I have mentioned that previously in Committee—and last night I attended a meeting with the Schools Minister, Lord Nash; Baroness Pitkeathley, who has been widely praised for her work in this area by members of the Committee; Baroness Tyler; representatives from parent carer networks; Carers UK; and parent carers themselves, who spoke directly of their aspirations and the challenges that they face. It was a helpful meeting and we explored legislative and non-legislative options to improve support for parent carers of disabled children.

The Government’s review is the right place to explore the issues. I can assure the Committee that rapid progress is now being made. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will understand that I cannot go into more detail because I have to respect proper process, but I was encouraged by the discussion last night and I repeat that I think we have a responsibility to do what we can to improve the lives of people caring for children.

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

Will we get the results of the review—and action—before the Bill is concluded?

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

A very simple answer: yes. I hope that reassures the shadow Minister.

The intervention was just in time, because I was coming to the end of my speech. I hope that I have reassured my right hon. Friend about the direction that the Government are taking and I hope he will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Sutton and Cheam

I am grateful to the Minister for being open to consideration of the issue. He expressed concern when he was before the Joint Committee and he has been pursuing the matter with Ministers in the Department for Education. I am pleased about the meeting he had yesterday and that the review will be rapid. I am also pleased he was able to confirm that rapid means before the legislation is concluded.

Will he at least undertake today to write at the earliest opportunity to members of the Committee once any write-round process and any other decisions that need to be made within Government have been concluded, so that the Committee might benefit from the news and then be able to act accordingly? It would be useful if the Minister could give us some reassurance that he could do that for us and write round to the Committee once he knows.

I saw the Minister sort of nod, but I do not know whether that was a nod.

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

I am being very generous in agreeing to write on all sorts of things. Hundreds of letters are at this very moment being written by the Department to my right hon. Friend and other members of the Committee, but I will be happy to write on this subject as soon as we have an answer to the question that he poses.

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Sutton and Cheam

The Minister is being very generous, and generous with the time of others. Having sat in his place and steered a Bill through Committee, I know that that can sometimes be an easy thing to do and that it does create work. I do appreciate the work that the Bill team do and I know how important they are to the effective discharge of our work in this place. None the less, I look forward to the letter and I am grateful to the Minister for conceding it. It helps us to do our job.

I understand the concerns expressed by the Minister. We took a conscious decision to establish an adult statute when we framed the draft Bill, so there was a clear decision. The question is about how we make sure there is symmetry in the arrangements, which is where the Children and Families Bill comes in, or other methods. I await the rapid review and its conclusions. With that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. I will review the situation when we get the letter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 3, in clause 61, page 52, line 20, leave out

‘with “parent” having the meaning given in section 59’.—(Norman Lamb.)

Clause 61, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.