CARE ACT 2014
Local authorities and their partners must promote wellbeing when carrying out care and support functions in respect of an adult. This is sometimes referred to as ‘the wellbeing principle’ because it is a guiding principle that puts wellbeing at the heart of care and support.
The core purpose of adult care and support is to help people to achieve the outcomes that matter to them in their life. Throughout the Care and Support Statutory Guidance, the different chapters set out how a local authority should go about performing its care and support responsibilities. Whilst these are local authority duties under the Care Act, they also apply to all organisations working with adults with care and support needs, and their carers.
Underpinning this duty is the need to ensure that all staff focus on the needs and goals of the person concerned.
Local authorities must promote wellbeing when carrying out any of their care and support functions in respect of a person. This may sometimes be referred to as ‘the wellbeing principle’ because it is a guiding principle that puts wellbeing at the heart of care and support. It applies in all cases where a local authority is carrying out a care and support function, or making a decision, in relation to a person. Whilst this is a statutory duty for local authorities, it should also underpin the work of partner agencies, in working with adults with care and support needs and their carers.
In some specific circumstances, it also applies to children, their carers and to young carers when they are subject to transition assessments (see Transition to Adult Care and Support).
2. Definition of Wellbeing
Wellbeing is a broad concept, and it is described as relating to the following areas in particular:
- personal dignity (including treatment of the individual with respect);
- physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing;
- protection from abuse and neglect;
- control by the individual over day to day life (including over care and support provided and the way it is provided);
- participation in work, education, training or recreation;
- social and economic wellbeing;
- domestic, family and personal relationships;
- suitability of living accommodation;
- the individual’s contribution to society.
There is no hierarchy in the above factors; all should be considered of equal importance when considering ‘wellbeing’ in the round.
3. Promoting Wellbeing
Whilst the following information relates to the duty of the local authority, it should also underpin work carried out by partner agencies with adults with care and support needs and their carers.
Promoting wellbeing involves actively seeking improvements in aspects of wellbeing set out above when carrying out a care and support function in relation to an individual at any stage of the local authority process, from the provision of information and advice to reviewing a care and support plan. Wellbeing covers an intentionally broad range of the aspects of a person’s life and will encompass a wide variety of specific considerations depending on the individual.
A local authority can promote a person’s wellbeing in many ways. How this happens will depend on the circumstances, including the person’s needs, goals and wishes, and how these impact on their wellbeing. There is no set approach – a local authority should consider each case on its own merits, consider what the person wants to achieve, and how the action which the local authority is taking may affect the wellbeing of the individual.
The concept of meeting needs recognises that everyone’s needs are different and personal to them. Staff must consider how to meet each person’s specific needs rather than simply considering what service they will fit into. The concept of meeting needs also recognises that modern care and support can be provided in any number of ways, with new models emerging all the time, rather than the previous legislation which focuses primarily on traditional models of residential and domiciliary care.
The local authority must act to promote wellbeing – and it should consider all of the aspects above in looking at how to meet a person’s needs and support them to achieve their desired outcomes. However, in individual cases, it is likely that some aspects of wellbeing will be more relevant to the person than others. For example, for some people the ability to engage in work or education will be a more important outcome than for others, and in these cases ‘promoting their wellbeing’ effectively may mean taking particular consideration of this aspect. Local authorities should adopt a flexible approach that allows for a focus on which aspects of wellbeing matter most to the individual concerned.
The principle of promoting wellbeing should be embedded through the local authority care and support system, but how it promotes wellbeing in practice will depend on the particular function being performed. During the assessment process, for instance, the local authority should explicitly consider the most relevant aspects of wellbeing to the individual concerned, and assess how their needs impact on them. Taking this approach will allow for the assessment to identify how care and support, or other services or resources in the local community, could help the person to achieve their outcomes. During care and support planning, when agreeing how needs are to be met, promoting the person’s wellbeing may mean making decisions about particular types or locations of care (for instance, to be closer to family). To give another example, the concept of wellbeing is very important when responding to someone who self-neglects, where it will be crucial to work alongside the person, understanding how their past experiences influence current behaviour. The duty to promote wellbeing applies equally to those who, for a variety of reasons, may be difficult to engage.
The wellbeing principle applies equally to those who do not have needs assessed as eligible for local authority care and support, but come into contact with the care and support system in some other way (for example, via an assessment that does not lead to ongoing care and support).
The local authority and partner agencies should also consider wellbeing when undertaking broader, strategic functions, such as planning, which are not in relation to one individual. Wellbeing should, therefore, be seen as the common theme around which care and support is built at both local and national levels.
In addition there are a number of other key principles and standards to which the local authority – and partner agencies – must have regard:
- The importance of beginning with the assumption that the individual is best placed to judge the individual’s wellbeing. Building on the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, the local authority should assume that the person themselves knows best their own outcomes, goals and wellbeing. Local authorities should not make assumptions as to what matters most to the person; there should be an assumption that the individual is best placed to understand the impact of their condition/s on their outcomes and wellbeing.
- The individual’s views, wishes, feelings and beliefs. Considering the person’s views and wishes is critical to a person centred system. Local authorities should not ignore or downplay the importance of a person’s own opinions in relation to their life and their care. Where particular views, feelings or beliefs (including religious beliefs) impact on the choices that a person may wish to make about their care, these should be taken into account. This is especially important where a person has expressed views in the past, but no longer has capacity to make decisions themselves.
- The importance of preventing or delaying the development of needs for care and support and the importance of reducing needs that already exist. At every interaction with a person, a local authority should consider whether or how the person’s needs could be reduced or other needs could be delayed from arising. Effective interventions at the right time can stop needs from escalating, and help people maintain their independence for longer.
- The need to ensure that decisions are made having regard to all the individual’s circumstances (and are not based only on their age or appearance, any condition they have, or any aspect of their behaviour which might lead others to make unjustified assumptions about their wellbeing). Local authorities should not make judgments based on preconceptions about the person’s circumstances, but should in every case work to understand their individual needs and goals.
- The importance of the individual participating as fully as possible. In decisions about them and being provided with the information and support necessary to enable the individual to participate. Care and support should be personal, and local authorities should not make decisions from which the person is excluded.
- The importance of achieving a balance between the individual’s wellbeing and that of any friends or relatives who are involved in caring for the individual. People should be considered in the context of their families and support networks, not just as isolated individuals with needs. Local authorities should take into account the impact of an individual’s need on those who support them, and take steps to help others access information or support.
- The need to protect people from abuse and neglect. In any activity which a local authority undertakes, it should consider how to ensure that the person is and remains protected from abuse or neglect. This is not confined only to safeguarding issues, but should be a general principle applied in every case including with those who self-neglect.
- The need to ensure that any restriction on the individual’s rights or freedom of action that is involved in the exercise of the function is kept to the minimum necessary. For achieving the purpose for which the function is being exercised. Where the local authority has to take actions which restrict rights or freedoms, they should ensure that the course followed is the least restrictive necessary. Concerns about self-neglect do not override this principle.
All of the matters above must be considered in relation to every individual. Considering these matters should lead to an approach that looks at a person’s life holistically, considering their needs in the context of their skills, ambitions, and priorities – as well as the other people in their life and how they can support the person in meeting the outcomes they want to achieve. The focus should be on supporting people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.
As with promoting wellbeing, the factors above will vary in their relevance and application to individuals. For some people, spiritual or religious beliefs will be of great significance, and should be taken into particular account. These should be considered on a case by case basis. This reflects the fact that every person is different and the matters of most importance to them will accordingly vary widely.
4. Independent Living
The concept of ‘independent living’ is a core part of the wellbeing principle. Issues include the individual’s control of their day to day life, suitability of living accommodation, contribution to society – and each person’s views, wishes, feelings and beliefs.
The wellbeing principle is intended to cover the key components of independent living, as expressed in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (in particular, Article 19 of the Convention). Supporting people to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible, is a guiding principle of the Care Act.
5. Wellbeing throughout the Care Act
Wellbeing cannot be achieved simply through crisis management; it must include a focus on delaying and preventing care and support needs, and supporting people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.
Where someone is unable to fully participate in these conversations and has no one to help them, local authorities will arrange for an independent advocate (see Independent Advocacy).
In order to ensure these conversations look at people holistically, local authorities and their partners must focus on joining up around an individual, making the person the starting point for planning, rather than what services are provided by what particular agency.
In particular, the Care Act is designed to work in partnership with the Children and Families Act 2014, which applies to 0 to 25 year old children and young people with SEN and Disabilities. In combination, the two Acts enable areas to prepare children and young people for adulthood from the earliest possible stage, including their transition to adult services. This is considered in more detail in Transition to Adult Care and Support.
Promoting wellbeing is not always about local authorities meeting needs directly. It will be just as important for them to put in place a system where people have the information they need to take control of their care and support and choose the options that are right for them. People will have an opportunity to request their local authority support in the form of a direct payment that they can then use to buy their own care and support using this information. The chapter on Information and Advice explains this in more detail.
Control also means the ability to move from one area to another or from children’s services to the adult system without fear of suddenly losing care and support. The Care Act ensures that people will be able to move to a different area without suddenly losing their care and support and provides clarity about who will be responsible for care and support in different situations. It also includes measures to help young people move to the adult care and support system, ensuring that no one finds themselves suddenly without care on turning 18.