One of the most welcome aspects of the government's Care and Support White Paper, due to be published this Wednesday, is the emphasis on portability of assessment. This is a crucial move, and something that disability campaigners have been pursuing for a great many years. Particular tribute should be paid to Baroness Jane Campbell, who only two weeks ago introduced a Private Members Bill in the House of Lords that put forward near identical provisions.
Put simply, the government's plans would allow people receiving care to move to a different part of the country, without losing their eligibility or their support. The area to which they move will, from 2014, be legally required to offer the same care package that they were originally receiving. This represents a dramatic shift in power, away from local councils and their assessment procedures, and towards the service users.
This measure has wide support, particularly amongst those in the charity sector who back greater independence and freedom for disabled people. This includes The Princes Royal Trust for Carers, Mencap, The National Centre for Independent Living, Carers UK and Age UK. There is now widespread support for the notion that a disability or care need should not preclude an individual from being able to move- particular those who wish to be closer to family members.
At present, too many people are left in limbo, having to do without crucial support until they are re-assessed by the local authority, and with no guarantee that they will receive the same care that they were previously entitled to. It is manifestly unfair that vulnerable people should be forced to take this leap into the unknown- the government deserves great credit for finally tackling this issue. It is entirely possible that this will be the first government in modern history to leave a simpler, fairer and more straightforward care system than the one it inherited from its predecessor.
This represents a step forward towards the choice and personalisation agenda which has underpinned policy in this area. It fits in especially well with the rising advocacy for personal budgets, which all local authorities will be obliged to offer by 2013. After all, there is no point offering people greater choice, if all that they are permitted to choose is fear and uncertainty. We are already seeing the rise of personal revolution taking place under this Government in social care. In England, their uptake has doubled from April 2010 to March 2011, to almost 340,000 service users.
The broader questions of funding of long term care that the government has to wrestle with will receive most of the media attention in the days and weeks to come. But we must not ignore the less eye-catching provisions of the white paper. For those people currently trapped by the patchwork system of assessment, desperate to avoid the roulette wheel of care, salvation might just be at hand.