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The Care Act (and how you made a difference)

Thursday, 23 October 2014 Helen Undy, Senior Policy & Campaigns Officer

Thanks to our campaigners and members, we've made the Care Act fairer for people with mental health problems.

I’m Helen, I work in the policy and campaigns team at Mind, and for the last couple of years I’ve been working on improving access to social care services for people with mental health problems. This covers services that help people with things like accessing local services, managing finances or getting up and dressed.

We know that not enough people get the care and support that they need, so we’ve been working hard to influence the Care Act, a new law that will shape social care services from April next year – and many of our campaigners and members have helped!

Today the final legal detail that goes with the Act has been published, and I’m really proud of the difference that we’ve made together. This blog is my way of saying a big thank you and to explain the changes we’ve helped make. 

Just over two years ago, the Government published their first version of the Care Act, hundreds of pages of legal detail. After lots of reading, we wanted to find out what changes were needed from people who had real life experience of using social care because of their mental health.

We ran focus groups, asked for comments by email and surveyed over 500 people. They told us that people were struggling to get access to services in the first place. Assessments didn’t take full account of the impact that people’s mental health had on their lives and accessing support was difficult and distressing. Some of our campaigners met with civil servants and they told us that these meetings made a real difference; it helped them to picture what social care is like for people with mental health problems and how it could be improved.

Mind wrote formal responses to the Department of Health and to a committee of MPs whose job it was to scrutinise the plans. Paul Farmer, our CEO, was then invited to give evidence to the committee in person, a great opportunity for us to be heard. We raised key points about the barriers to accessing services, the lack of understanding of fluctuating needs in social care assessments, the need for more advocacy support and better mental health training for assessors. We also took part in high-level meetings at the Department of Health; a great opportunity to really shape some of the finer legal details that can make all the difference in practice.

The scrutiny committee agreed with many of our points, so when the Government published the next version some key changes had been made. The draft law now included better assessments of fluctuating needs and more mention of mental health, real progress.

The next stage was the Bill going through Parliament, starting in the House of Lords. Our parliamentary team briefed MPs and Peers to raise our key points in the debate, ask questions and suggest changes to the Bill. We also asked our campaigners to email their MPs about the changes they wanted to see. Working in coalition with other charities we fought for better provision of advocacy services, and after many meetings (and many emails) we won!

From April next year, people who would otherwise struggle to take part in social care processes will be entitled to (free) independent advocacy. Our members and campaigners told us that advocacy really helps, so I’m especially proud of what the team achieved.

Finally, we’ve been calling for better support for people to maintain and stay in their homes, including help with paying bills and with issues like hoarding. The legal detail published today contains the changes we’ve been asking for – which is amazing news and will make a real impact.

The new law isn’t perfect, social care is still under-funded and the bar to accessing services is still far too high. But we think it’s better than the current system, and certainly fairer for people with mental health problems. It’s also better than the Government’s plans two years ago, and a lot of that is down to our members and campaigners. Together, we really did make a difference.

Key Changes in the Care Act

  • A new right to independent advocacy
  • Better assessment of fluctuating needs
  • The same eligibility threshold wherever you live
  • Assessments for carers
  • A new duty on councils to promote wellbeing
  • New support to help people maintain a home

You can sign up to be a Mind campaigner on our website.

To find out more about the Care Act, go to the government’s website and search for ‘Care Act factsheets’


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