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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006, 14:33 GMT
Social care chiefs urge rethink
The Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) has issued a response to Panorama's The National Homes Swindle programme.

In light of the issues raised in Sunday's broadcast, the ADSS "advised their members to consider carefully the circumstances of sick and disabled people for whom they care."

According to ADSS president Julie Jones, "legal advice following [the Grogan judgment] suggests that we should bear in mind some essential factors when considering the cases of people supported by the local authority.

"We should be particularly mindful of those whose costs we pay in full, while remembering that we also have duties to those people who fund all or part of their own costs, and whom we have placed in care."

'Lack of clarity'

The ADSS in their statement stressed that the judge in the Grogan case identified a lack of clarity in government guidance, particularly in terms of the relationship between the Registered Nursing Care Contributions (RNCC) high band and the NHS continuing care criteria.

Many older, sick and disabled people turn to us for help and support and we have a responsibility to ensure their best interests are protected
Julie Jones
ADSS president

The ADSS now advises that its members assure themselves that all people in the RNCC high band "have received a proper continuing care assessment, duly recorded in respect of the agreed continuing care criteria for their area and that they are satisfied that these processes have been robustly undertaken".

According to Jeff Jerome, co-chair of the Disabilities Committee, "it may be sensible for directors to inform their Primary Care Trust (PCT) partners that the funding of anyone with high band RNCC categorisation must be re-considered by the local authority."

Open to challenge

The ADSS made the point that existing continuing care eligibility criteria applied by Strategic Health Authorities "might be challenged and shown to be unlawful for lack of clarity or lack of explicit regard to... the Coughlan test".

The association emphasised that its statement "is only advisory" and that they should take their own legal counsel within each authority.

Ms Jones warned that "the current and recent publicity around continuing care is almost certain to increase given the heightened public awareness surrounding the issues and the increased intentions of many users and their families to challenge it".

She said the ADSS would continue to work with the Department of Health in trying to improve the existing situation.

"Many older, sick and disabled people turn to us for help and support and we in local government have a responsibility to ensure their best interests are protected at a time when they are often at their most vulnerable."

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