Changing the law

To change the care and support system, we need to change the law. The draft Care and Support Bill, published on 11th July 2012, creates a single modern law for adult care and support, replacing more than a dozen pieces of legislation. This is the most comprehensive reform of social care legislation for more than 60 years.

Why are we reforming the law?

A major reform of care and support law is long overdue. The current social care law is:

  • incoherent – the law has been added to piece by piece, without any attempt to reform or consolidate it, so there is little relationship between the different pieces of legislation and no common objectives
  • complex and difficult to navigate – there are more than a dozen Acts of Parliament relating to adult care and support and it is almost impossible for people who need care, carers and even those who manage the system to understand how the law operates
  • outdated – the law still dates back to the 1948 National Assistance Act, which was written for a different time when it was assumed that institutional care was best for people
  • disempowering – most of the law focuses on disabilities rather than needs or outcomes, and local authority services over which the person has little control
  • inconsistent and unfair – the law is full of anomalies based on the type of service people receive and we want the law to treat people equally through a single piece of legislation

The Law Commission carried out a 3-year review of social care law, and made many recommendations for changing the legislation. It said that the law should be reformed fundamentally and we agree. The Law Commission’s proposals are the basis for the draft Bill, and we have also published a formal response to the Commission.

What are the main changes?

The draft Bill provides the law needed to achieve many of the commitments in the White Paper ‘Caring for our future: reforming care and support’. But, more than that, it is an important reform in its own right.

  • For the first time, the draft Bill gives a positive message about what care and support is for. The wellbeing principle and focus on individuals’ needs and outcomes creates a defining purpose for care and support.
  • There is a historic step forward in relation to carers, with new rights to support that put them on the same footing as the people they care for.
  • The draft Bill sets out new universal obligations towards the broader community – for example on providing information about care, and on prevention – not just services for the most needy. It also includes a focus on reducing dependency on the state.

You can find out more about the draft Bill.

What happens next?

The next stage for the draft Bill is pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee made up of 12 members from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

 The Committee is charged with considering the draft Bill and reporting by 7th March 2013. It will take written and oral evidence and will then make recommendations in a report to both Houses.

What is a draft Bill and pre-legislative scrutiny?

A draft Bill is a unique opportunity to change the law, and it is essential we get it right. We know that many people in the care and support sector have called for engagement on the new legislation, which is why we have been taking the time to engage fully with people with experience and expertise in care and support.

A draft Bill is published to enable public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny (PLS) before introduction to Parliament. This allows proposed changes to be made before the Bill’s formal introduction in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Most draft Bills are examined either by select committees in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords, or by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament. The committee will consider a draft Bill at an early stage and make recommendations to Government in advance of a Bill being published for introduction. Further details on the process are available on the Parliament website.

Read the summary of what people told us in the public consultation.

Where can I find out more?

Further details about the members of the Joint Committee and the latest information about its proceedings can also be found on the Parliament website.

For more information on reforming the care and support system, please see the Caring for our future website.


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