Page last updated at 00:24 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Social care law needs simplifying, says Law Commission

Elderly man
Social care is at the top of the political agenda at the moment

The law and duties covering social care provided by councils in England and Wales need simplifying, experts say.

The Law Commission, which advises the government on law reform, said the current system, incorporating 39 different acts, was confusing.

The organisation wants to see a streamlined series of duties covering issues such as assessments, investigations and decision-making.

Campaigners said the move, which is being consulted on, was much needed.

It comes as social care has risen to the top of the political agenda.

All three main parties have put forward proposals to revamp the funding system.

We are aware that the vast array of legislation and guidance is absolutely bewildering to older people and their carers
Stephen Burke, of Counsel and Care

Many campaigners and social care chiefs back a controversial proposal, put forward by the government, to introduce a compulsory charge of up to £20,000 on people.

The Law Commission plan is nothing to do with funding, rather it focuses on how councils, which run social care, operate their services.

The advisory body said there were too many different laws and pieces of guidance governing the system, some of which date back to the 1940s.

It wants to see these absorbed into a more simplified set of duties.

Among these are a clear set of principles to guide decisions, a duty to assess the needs of any carer and an obligation to investigate when abuse or neglect is suspected.

All of these are already part of the system, but since they are covered by so many acts, the Law Commission felt more clarity was needed for both councils and the public.

Frances Patterson, who is leading the project, said the current situation was "unacceptable".

Stephen Burke, head of Counsel and Care, the older people's charity, said: "We are aware that the vast array of legislation and guidance is absolutely bewildering to older people and their carers.

"Pulling all the legislation together into one statute will bring much needed clarity about the rights of older people and their carers."

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