Providing a personalised approach to care

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The Care Act (2014) promotes social workers as the lead professional responsible for personalised, integrated care and support. The Mental Health Act (1983) and the Mental Capacity Act (2005) and the Care Act place social work in a pivotal position to shape the future of adult social care.

A revised edition of the Care Act was published on 10 March 2016 and supersedes the version issued in October 2014. It takes account of regulatory changes, feedback from stakeholders and the care sector, and developments following the postponement of social care funding reforms to 2020.

Social work underpins the personalised approaches to the delivery of care.

Your social workers should have the qualifications, knowledge and skills to:

  • work with complexity, risk and conflict
  • operate within a legal framework
  • intervene therapeutically and in the community
  • work with capacity and mental health needs
  • shape social care.

The Social Work Reform programme introduced radical changes to improve the professional status of social work.  Further activity to address the professional development and support needs of the social work workforce is likely to continue in the future.

Assessment, review and care planning

The Care Act places a clear duty on local authorities to make available assessments for those who in need of care and support. Assessments will need to be undertaken by those with assessment experience as they will need to identify individual needs and required outcomes.

Local authorities charging for this service must carry out a financial assessment to determine how much an individual can afford to pay towards the cost of their care and support. They must also establish personal ‘care accounts’ to monitor progress towards the cap on care cost contributions.

It is expected that there will be an increase in the number of assessments carried out by local authorities. Assessments must be delivered within the context of continuing financial constraints and its likely local authorities will explore a range of options to fulfil this obligation, including a tiered approach based on complexity.

The Care Act sets out a clear role for social workers and occupational therapists in:

  • carrying out complex assessments which require co-ordination across statutory and community services (it emphasises a unique role for social workers in this area)
  • providing support to other assessors where the individual may lack capacity
  • supporting people to develop their care plans and enable them to engage confidently in the process
  • developing expertise in knowing where additional community resources can contribute to the plan (e.g. building wellbeing and emotional connections).

Provision of information and guidance

The Care Act brings broad, high-level requirements for local authority information and advice services. It introduces regulatory reform, which includes new ratings systems, centralised ‘comparison’ data and a duty of candour.

Your social workers will help to ensure that people in need of care and support are able to access and interpret new sources of information. They should provide advice and guidance to help them  understand how the care and support system works, what local services are available and how they can be accessed.

The social worker role will help to identify people with more complex needs at an early stage and provide access to the appropriate support. 

Promoting wellbeing and prevention

High quality, person-centred care is central to the social worker role. Your social workers must promote dignity and focus on the value of every individual..

The Care Act ensures that individual wellbeing will become the driving force behind care and support. It requires local authorities to prevent, the reduction or delay of care and support.

It recognises that social workers can bring a whole-person approach to prevention. This includes consideration of a person’s strengths, informal and community networks, as well as their needs and risks.

The revised edition of the Care Act published in March 2016 includes a new description regarding the role of principal social worker.

Transition support

The Care Act supports the transition for young people between children’s and adult care. It gives local authorities the power to assess children, young carers and parent carers.

It links closely with the Children and Families Act 2014, as there will be a group of young people aged 18-25 who will be entitled to support though both pieces of legislation. The two Acts have the same emphasis on outcomes, personalisation, and the integration of services. This means  it’s essential that the planning and implementation for both Acts is connected a local level.

The Care Act recognises social workers as the most appropriate professionals to carry out transition assessments for young people with complex needs, who are transitioning into adult services.

The revised edition of the Care Act published in March 2016 includes new content on people with care and support needs reaching 18 years of age to reflect changes to funding reform plans.

Integration and cooperation

Local authorities have a duty to carry out their care and support functions, integrating services provided by the NHS or other health-related services, such as housing.

Local and other authorities which have care and support functions must cooperate.

This is backed up by a more specific duty to cooperate in relation to individual cases. These provisions include a duty on local authorities to ensure cooperation between officers responsible for adult care and support, housing, children’s services and public health.

The core skills of social workers will help to maximise independence and choice. Working with people in need of care and support and their families, positive risk- taking will mean that they will be equipped to take leadership roles within integrated service environments. 

Safeguarding, mental health and mental capacity

Adult safeguarding has changed over recent years and there is a new programme of action in place following the Winterbourne View review. This means there are new responsibilities for local authorities and other partners detailed in The Care Act.

One of the new requirements aims to establish "Safeguarding Adults Boards" in every local area. This will publish information on an annual basis to focus on what they have done to implement the findings of their safeguarding reviews and why they have declined to implement other findings.

On a practice level, the Care Act expects that social workers will be required to supervise safeguarding enquiries, including more complex cases such as suspected abuse or neglect within the family.

It also anticipates that social workers (with occupational therapists or other appropriately qualified social care professionals) will act as the lead workers in cases where deprivation of liberty safeguards (DOLs) may be needed. 

Most revisions in the 2016 Care Act update have been made for reasons of accuracy or clarity. Some are more substantial, reflecting learning through the first period of implementation and feedback from stakeholders and partners. Full details can be found here


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