Under the Care Act 2014, local authorities must develop and maintain services for people living in their area, to provide information and advice relating to care and support for adults and support for carers. Whilst providing such information and advice is the responsibility of the local authority, the principle is relevant to all agencies.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Complaints
- 3. Adult Safeguarding
- 4. Audiences for the Information and Advice Service
- 5. Quality of Information and Advice
- 6. Content
- 7. Opportunities to Provide Information and Advice
- 8. Accessibility
- 9. Proportionality
Information and advice is fundamental to enabling people, carers and families to take control of, and make well informed choices about, their care and support and how they fund it. Not only does information and advice help to promote people’s wellbeing by increasing their ability to exercise choice and control, it is also a vital component of preventing or delaying peoples’ need for care and support.
The local authority must: ‘establish and maintain a service for providing people in its area with information and advice relating to care and support for adults and support for carers’ (Care and Support Statutory Guidance 2014: 3.2).
The local authority must ensure that information and advice services established cover more than just basic information about care and support and cover the range of care and support related areas. The service should also address prevention of care and support needs, finances, health, housing, employment, what to do in cases of abuse or neglect of an adult and other areas where required.
Separate to the duty to establish and maintain an information and advice service, the local authority must provide independent advocacy to facilitate the person’s involvement in the care and support assessment, planning and review processes where an individual would experience substantial difficulty in understanding, retaining or using information given, or in communicating their views, wishes or feelings and where there is nobody else appropriate (see Independent Advocacy).
Information should be available in a range of media and produced in different, user friendly formats for people with care and support needs, and their carers. They should be informed that their concern or complaint will be taken seriously, be dealt with independently and that they will be kept involved in the process to the degree that they wish to be. They should be reassured they will receive help and support in taking action on their own behalf. They should also be advised they can nominate an advocate or representative to speak out and act on their behalf if they wish (see also Independent Advocacy).
3. Adult Safeguarding
The local authority and its partners have a duty to help people with care and support needs, and who may be at risk of abuse or neglect as a result of those needs, keep safe. Everyone in the community should understand the importance of safeguarding and help keep people safe.
3.1 Raising concerns and keeping safe
The local authority must provide information and advice to the public about how to raise concerns about the safety or wellbeing of an adult who has care and support needs. It should also support public knowledge and awareness of different types of abuse and neglect, how to keep oneself physically, sexually, financially and emotionally safe, and how to support people to keep safe. The information and advice provided must also cover who to tell when there are concerns about abuse or neglect and what will happen when such concerns are raised, including information on the roles and responsibilities of the local Safeguarding Adults Board.
3.2 Commissioning and partner agencies
All commissioners or providers of services in the public, voluntary or private sectors should disseminate information about these multi-agency procedures. Staff should also be familiar with their own agency’s procedures in relation to how to respond if they suspect or encounter adults who are experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect. This should be incorporated in staff manuals or handbooks, detailing terms and conditions of appointment and other employment procedures so that all individual staff members are aware of their responsibilities in relation to safeguarding adults. This information should emphasise that all those who express concern will be treated seriously and will receive a positive response from their managers.
4. Audiences for the Information and Advice Service
The local authority is responsible for ensuring that all adults including carers in its area with a need for information and advice about care and support are able to access the service. This is a very broad group, extending much further than people who have an immediate need for care or support. It will only be achieved through working in partnership with the wider public and local advice and information providers.
People, including carers, who are likely to need information and advice include but are not restricted to:
- people wanting to plan for their future care and support needs;
- people who may develop care and support needs, or whose current care and support needs may become greater. Under the duty of prevention in the Act, local authorities are expected to take action to prevent, delay and / or reduce the care and support needs for these people (see Preventing, Reducing or Delaying Needs);
- people who have not presented to local authority for assessment but are likely to be in need of care and support. Local authorities are expected to take steps to identify such people and encourage them to come forward for an assessment of their needs (see also Preventing, Reducing or Delaying Needs);
- people who become known to the local authority (through referral, including self-referral), at first contact where an assessment of needs is being considered;
- people who are assessed by the local authority as currently being in need of care and support. Advice and information must be offered to these people irrespective of whether they have been assessed as having eligible needs which the local authority must meet;
- people whose eligible needs for care and support the local authority is currently meeting (whether the local authority is paying for some, all or none of the costs of meeting those needs;
- people whose care and support or support plans are being reviewed;
- family members and carers of adults with care and support needs, (or those who are likely to develop care and support needs). Local authorities are expected to have regard to the importance of identifying carers and take action to reduce their needs for support;
- people who may benefit from financial information and advice on matters concerning care and support. Local authorities must have regard to the importance of identifying these people, to help them understand the financial costs of their care and support and access independent financial information and advice including from regulated financial advisers and;
- care and support staff who have contact with and provide information and advice as part of their jobs.
The local authority must recognise and respond to the specific requirements that carers have for both general and personal information and advice. A carer’s need for information and advice may be separate and distinct from information and advice for the person for whom they are caring. These distinct needs may be covered together, in a similar manner to the local authority combining an assessment of a person needing care and support with a carer’s assessment, but may be more appropriately addressed separately. This may include:
- breaks from caring;
- the health and wellbeing of carers themselves;
- caring and advice on wider family relationships;
- carers’ financial and legal issues;
- caring and employment;
- caring and education; and
- a carer’s need for advocacy.
5. Quality of Information and Advice
The local authority must ensure that there is an accessible information and advice service that meets the needs of its population. Information and advice must be open to everyone who would benefit from it. People access information and advice from a wide variety of sources. The authority should take account of information standards published by the Information Standards Board for Health and Social Care.
The local authority should ensure that information supplied is clear. Information and advice should only be judged as clear if it is understood and be able to be acted on by those receiving it. Local authorities will need to take steps to evaluate and ensure that information and advice is understood and able to be acted upon.
Information and advice provided by the service should be accurate, up-to-date and consistent with other sources of information and advice. Staff providing information and advice within a local authority and other frontline staff should be aware of accessibility issues and be appropriately trained.
All reasonable efforts should be taken to ensure that the information and advice provide meets the individual’s requirements, is comprehensive and is given at an early stage.
The local authority must seek to ensure that all relevant information is available to people for them to make the best informed decision in their particular circumstances. Omission or withholding of information would be at odds with the duty as set out in the Act.
There will be some circumstances where impartial information and advice are particularly important and the local authority should consider when this may be best provided by an independent source, rather than by the local authority itself. This is particularly likely to be the case when people need advice about how and whether to question or challenge the decisions of the local authority or other statutory body.
The local authority must ensure that information and advice is available on:
- how the local care and support system works locally – about how the system works, including the assessment process, safeguarding, eligibility, and review, complaints, appeals, independent advocacy, supporting individual wellbeing charging for care and support costs, national resources, planning for future care, planning for future lack of capacity;
- how to access the care and support available locally;
- the choice of types of care and support, and the choice of care providers available in the local area – including prevention and reablement services and wider services that support wellbeing;
- how to access independent financial advice on matters relating to care and support;
- how to raise concerns about the safety or wellbeing of an adult with care and support needs (and also consider how to do the same for a carer with support needs).
Depending on local circumstances, the service should also include, but not be limited to, information and advice on:
- available housing and housing-related support options for those with care and support needs;
- effective treatment and support for health conditions, including Continuing Health Care arrangements;
- availability and quality of health services;
- availability of services that may help people remain independent for longer such as home improvement agencies, handyman or maintenance services;
- availability of befriending services and other services to prevent social isolation;
- availability of intermediate care entitlements such as aids and adaptations;
- eligibility and applying for disability benefits and other types of benefits;
- availability of employment support for disabled adults;
- children’s social care services and transition to adult care and support;
- availability of carers’ services and benefits;
- sources of independent information, advice and advocacy;
- the Court of Protection, Power of Attorney and becoming a Deputy;
- raise awareness of the need to plan for future care costs;
- practical help with planning to meet future or current care costs;
- accessible ways and support to help people understand the different types of abuse and its prevention.
7. Opportunities to Provide Information and Advice
There are a number of direct opportunities that the local authority has to provide or signpost people to advice and information. These include:
- at first point of contact with the local authority;
- as part of a needs or carer’s assessment, including joint Continuing Healthcare;
- during a period of reablement;
- around and following financial assessment;
- when considering a financial commitment such as a deferred payment agreement or top‑up agreement;
- during or following an adult safeguarding enquiry;
- when considering take up of a personal budget and/or Direct Payment;
- during the care and support planning process;
- during the review of a person’s care and support plan;
- when a person may be considering a move to another local authority area;
- at points in transition, for example when people needing care or carers under 18 become adults and the systems for support may change.
The local authority and its partners must use wider opportunities to provide targeted information and advice at key points in people’s contact with the care and support, health and other local services. These may be at key ‘trigger points’ during a person’s life such as:
- contact with other local authority services;
- hospital entry and/or discharge;
- diagnosis of health conditions – such as dementia, stroke or an acquired impairment for example;
- consideration or review of Continuing Healthcare arrangements;
- take up of power of attorney;
- applications to Court of Protection;
- application for, or review of, disability benefits such as Attendance Allowance and Personal Independence Payments, and for Carers Allowance;
- access to work interviews;
- contact with local support groups, charities, or user-led organisations including carers’ groups and disabled person’s organisations;
- contact with or use of private care and support services, including homes care;
- change or loss of housing;
- contact with the criminal justice system;
- admission to or release from prison;
- ‘Guidance Guarantee’ in the Pensions Act 2014;
The local authority should ensure that products and materials (in all formats) are as accessible as possible for all potential users and meet specified standards for websites, printed materials and telephone advice for example. As required under the Equality Act 2010, reasonable adjustments should be made to ensure that disabled people have equal access to information and advice services. Reasonable adjustments could include the provision of information in accessible formats or with communication support.
Information and advice channels are likely to include all of the following:
- face to face contact;
- use of peer to peer contacts;
- community settings;
- advice and advocacy services;
- mass communications, and targeted use of leaflets, posters and so on (for example in GP surgeries);
- use of ‘free’ media such as newspaper, local radio stations, social media;
- the local authority’s own and other appropriate internet websites, including support for the self-assessment of needs;
- third party internet content and applications;
Some groups in need of information and advice about care and support may have particular requirements.The local authority must ensure that their information and advice service has due regard to the needs of these people. These include, but are not limited to:
- people with sensory impairments, such as visual impairment, deafblind and hearing impaired;
- people who do not have English as a first language;
- people who are socially isolated;
- people whose disabilities limit their physical mobility;
- people with learning disabilities;
- people with mental health problems.
Some people, including some people with dementia, may benefit from an independent person to help them to access or avail themselves of necessary information and advice. Any such need for help to facilitate access to this universal information and advice needs to be considered in planning for delivery of the service, although the duty to make arrangements for an individual to have an independent advocate available to them in certain circumstances only applies in relation to an individual’s involvement in the assessment, planning and review processes. From the point of first contact with, or referral to, the local authority, consideration of the duty to provide for independent advocacy to support involvement in assessment, planning and reviews should be undertaken (see Independent Advocacy).
The type, extent and timing of information and advice provided should be appropriate to the needs of the person. More complex issues may require more intensive and more personalised information and advice, helping people to understand the choices available to them, while general enquiries may require a less intensive approach. It is also important that the right level of information and advice is provided at the right time, recognising that a person’s need for information or advice may vary depending on the circumstance. For example, providing a person with too much information, more than they can take in, perhaps at a time of crisis, can be counter-productive.
There are clear messages from past public consultations and from research that people ‘don’t know what they need to know’ in relation to their care and support. This can prevent them asking the right questions and can mask the articulation and identification of needs that they have, for which they could benefit from information and advice. All contact for information and advice should take account of this and be able to respond with an assessment of needs when appropriate.