Press release

Social care users will be guaranteed a minimum level of council help under new plans

Norman Lamb announces new national eligibility criteria that will let councils keep current levels of access to care and support services.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


A new national eligibility criteria to be introduced in 2015 will set a minimum threshold that will allow local authorities to keep current levels of access to care and support services, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb announced today.

For the first time, this threshold will set out the individual needs and circumstances in which every council in England must offer care and support for adults.

This would put an end to councils tightening their own local eligibility criteria in response to budget pressures, which can currently see people live with the fear that they will be denied or lose their support. It will also tackle the variations between local authorities which leads to inconsistencies, confusion and legal challenges.

Draft regulations published today describe the national threshold, which is at a level equivalent to ‘substantial’ in current guidance. This marks the start of a process to look at how best to deliver these changes to make the system fairer, without impacting on existing care users.

It will include exploring how councils can use their 2015/16 funding settlement, with £3.8 billion of pooled funding, including an additional £2 billion through the NHS, to maintain the same level of services when they move to the new care and support system.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said:

We know people are often confused about what care they can expect from their local authority and far too many end up having to fight for the care that they need because the rules are so complicated.

In my view, we need to be clear about the basic minimum entitlements to services so that everyone can be reassured there is some level of support they can expect, regardless of where they live.

A national minimum is exactly that – a starting point for local councils to base their care provision on.

We are also starting work on a new approach to eligibility - which aims to offer some help to families earlier on to help prevent a deterioration of condition – this summer.

Bringing in these changes will be one of the foundation stones for the most far reaching reform of social care in over 60 years.

Draft regulations, published today for discussion before a more formal consultation takes place next year, include proposals that will aim to:

  • Set a national threshold beyond which local authorities will not be able reduce their eligibility;

  • base the national threshold for people who use care at a level which would in practice be equivalent to “substantial” in the current system. This is the level currently operated by the vast majority of local authorities.

  • introduce a consistent eligibility level for carers, which has never existed before, to support their new rights to get help and support; and

  • provide clarity and reassurance to people who are looking to move home and live in another local authority area about the level of services that the new authority will provide.

Councils currently assess the needs of people needing care as either ‘critical’, ‘substantial’, ‘moderate’ or ‘low’. But there is little consistency across the categories and many councils provide support only for people with ‘substantial’ care needs with a few restricting eligibility to the ’critical’.

Studies have shown that in 2013:

  • the vast majority, 130, had a threshold at substantial;

  • only three councils provided social care to people falling in to all the bands;

  • 16 provided care to those with moderate needs and above; and

  • three councils only provided care for those with critical needs.

Norman Lamb continued:

We want to make the system of care and support even better in the future and we will bring together a working group of users of services, carers, local authorities and academics will develop and test options for a possible new assessment framework.

The group will hold its first meeting later in the summer and will be looking at how the assessment framework can support independence and reduce dependency.

This year’s Spending Review settlement includes a £3.8 billion merged health and social care budget to make sure everyone gets a properly joined up service where they don’t have to worry if that service is coming from the NHS or the local council.

The entire fund will help ensure that access to care and support can be protected and will also deliver this new national minimum eligibility threshold.

The new national standard for eligibility is one strand of a package of reforms that will modernise and improve the care and support that people will receive.

The Care Bill will:

  • prioritise the wellbeing of individuals and provide them with new legal rights, including new rights for carers to receive support from their council;

  • enable a wider range of care and support to be offered that will help to delay or prevent people from developing serious care needs;

  • help people to better understand the care and support system, plan for care, and know what care and support options are available to them, whether they have low or more serious needs; and

  • Introduce a new funding system to cap the costs which a person will spend in their lifetime on their eligible needs, and ensure that no one has to sell their home to pay for their care.

Background information

  1. Media enquiries only to Alison Langley, at the Department of Health Media Centre on 020 7210 5375 or Basheer Khan on 020 7210 5222.

  2. The Department of Health will publish the regulations on eligibility for formal consultation once the Care Bill has completed its passage through Parliament, in spring 2014.

  3. Following this process, the regulations will be laid before Parliament in autumn 2014. This will provide six months for councils to make practical arrangements, prior to the national eligibility level coming into effect in April 2015.

  4. Draft regulations can be found at here.

Published 28 June 2013