In the coming weeks and month, social care staff across the UK will see a number of changes to the way services are organised following the recent passing of the Care Act 2014.
The new legislation, which was given Royal Assent on May 14th 2014, will be one of the most fundamental and significant changes to the legislative framework for social care services in the UK for several decades, bringing a modern perspective and a more patient-centric approach to the provision of care.
Naturally, social carers and occupational health specialists can expect to see at least a few adjustments to the way they approach their jobs, so it is important that they make themselves aware of the act's objectives and details at the earliest possible opportunity.
Key components of the Care Act
The main purpose of the Care Act is, in the words of care and support minister Norman Lamb, to create "a single, modern law that makes it clear what kind of care people should expect".
Key measures that have been introduced include a minimum eligibility threshold across the country, laying out a set of standardised criteria that explain at what point local authorities will need to provide support to people.
From now on, local councils will have a legal duty to consider the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of the patient and to provide preventative services to maintain their health, while efforts will be made to build care provision around the individual needs of each person, through the introduction of personal budgets.
Moreover, for the first time the act puts a limit on the amount anyone will have to pay towards the costs of their care - once the cap of £72,000 is reached, the state will pay additional costs. The means testing level for government assistance will also kick in far earlier than before.
Finally, carers will be entitled to an assessment in their own right, a change that reflects the fact these people often just as in need of support as the patients themselves.
Changing expectations for staff
Naturally, changes of this magnitude will have a number of knock-on effects for staff, who will need to adapt and work differently with the rest of the healthcare sector.
Since the wishes and goals of individual patients will become more important than ever, care workers will need to take personal considerations into account when planning treatment strategies, particularly when personal budgets are a factor. Since patients will have the tools and information to make their own decisions, they may wish to choose alternative forms of care with specific lifestyle goals in mind - creating opportunities for occupational therapists to play a greater role.
Moreover, the focus on preventative care will also require a shift in thinking. Instead of responding to emergencies and health crises, care professionals will be encouraged to do more to facilitate rehabilitation and promote self-management of conditions, working in close collaboration with community services, or ensuring that people have access to equipment vital to improving their quality of life.
This change in perspective will help more people to live independently for longer, while contributing to wider efforts to reduce pressure on emergency care providers. The government has also allocated £3.8 billion to bring together health and social care budgets, ensuring efforts to join up services are properly funded.
Mr Lamb said: "Over four years, we have worked collaboratively to develop the most comprehensive overhaul of social care since 1948 and together we now need to focus on making these reforms a reality."
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