Law Commission recommends radical overhaul of adult social care law

11 May 2011

The Law Commission is recommending the most far-reaching reforms of adult social care law seen for over 60 years, in a report published today.

The Commission’s recommendation for a single, clear, modern statute and code of practice would pave the way for a coherent social care system. For the first time, older people, disabled people, those with mental health problems and carers will be clear about their legal rights to care and support services. Local councils across England and Wales will have clear and concise rules to govern when they must provide services.

Included in the Commission’s recommendations are:

  • putting the individual’s wellbeing at the heart of decision-making, using new statutory principles
  • giving carers new legal rights to services
  • placing duties on councils and the NHS to work together
  • building a single, streamlined assessment and eligibility framework
  • protecting service users from abuse and neglect with a new legal framework, and
  • for the first time, giving adult safeguarding boards a statutory footing.

The current law is fragmented and flawed. It is out of date – it stems from the National Assistance Act 1948 and has grown on a piecemeal basis since then – and there is a lot of it. A lack of cohesion leaves service users and providers struggling to make sense of ambiguous and inconsistent rights and duties. Under the Law Commission’s recommendations, over 40 statutes would be repealed or amended, and 1,000s of pages of often contradictory guidance would be consigned to history.

Frances Patterson QC, the Public Law Commissioner leading the review, said:

“Today signals a significant step in moving us closer to a clearer and more coherent framework for adult social care. Our recommendations will bring much needed clarity and accessibility to this important area of the law, and have a major, beneficial impact on the lives of many of our most vulnerable citizens.

“Our recommendations will protect the strong rights that exist in adult social care law while, at the same time, ensuring that emerging policy objectives, such as personalisation and self-directed support, are recognised fully in statute law.”

The Government will review the Commission’s recommendations with a view to introducing legislation in 2012, as part of the wider review of adult social care that includes the funding of services.

The report, “Adult Social Care”, and a summary are available on the adult social care project pages of the Law Commission website: www.lawcom.gov.uk

Notes for Editors
The Law Commission is a non-political independent body, set up by Parliament in 1965 to keep all the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed.
For all press queries please contact:
Phil Hodgson, Head of External Relations 020 3334 0230
Email: communications@lawcommission.gsi.gov.uk