Working in co-operation with each other – will it work?
The Care Act 2014 is the biggest reform of Adult Social Care Law since the introduction of the National Assistance Act 1948. One of the aspects of the new Act requires co-operation between Local Authorities and partner organisations. Local Authority practitioners will know how difficult it can be to engage other agencies when Social Services are the agency with the Statutory Duty and so it will be interesting to see how this works in practice.
Before the Care Act 2014 there was no specific statutory duty for local authorities to promote integration of care and support with health or other services. However, the concept is not new and the NHS already has a duty to promote integration with care and support and the Care Act 2014 provides the corresponding duty for local authorities.
The Care Act introduces two separate provisions dealing with co-operation. Section 6 deals with the general duty to co-operate. Section 7 deals with a specific duty to co-operate.
Section 6 of the Care Act provides that a local authority must co-operate with its relevant partners and its relevant partners must co-operate with it in the exercise of their respective functions relating to adults with care and support needs and carers. The section then goes on to clarify who is a relevant partner. Authorities must agree to co-operate and so it is important to have up-to-date policies and agreements in place to ensure the co-operation is effective.
Section 7 of the Care Act provides that where a local authority requests the co-operation of a relevant partner or a local authority which is not one of its relevant partners they must comply with the request unless it considers that doing so would be incompatible with its own duties, or would otherwise have an adverse effect on the exercise of its functions. They should co-operate by giving such assistance as is reasonable in the circumstances.
Therefore, in carrying out its duty regarding care and support, a Local Authority must aim to integrate provisions that will promote well-being, prevent or delay needs or improve the quality of care and support available in their area. The intention is to improve coordination of care and support with a more holistic approach to the person’s needs and also a more efficient use of public services to avoid duplication of provision.
In practical terms this should lead to joint assessments, the joint commissioning of services, pooled budgets and multi-disciplinary teams, which in the longer term should lead to savings through efficiency. However, with an ever increasing demand on reducing resources it remains to be seen how effective this will be.