Older woman and care worker using tablet image

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a new inquiry about the ability to challenge decisions made by local councils about adult social care.

To inform the inquiry, EHRC has launched an accompanying survey about access to adult social care. The body wants to hear about the experiences of adults in England and Wales who are getting, or have asked for, social care or support from their local council since April 2018.

EHRC is particularly interested in decisions that relate to assessments of respondents’ care or support needs; if, how, or where respondents’ care or support needs will be met; and changes to care or support packages.

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According to the equality body, decisions about people’s access to social care or support – i.e. whether they are granted access to social care services – can affect the dignity and inclusion of many disabled and older adults, as well as unpaid carers, and impact their ability to live the life they choose.

EHRC says it is vital that people can easily challenge a decision if they feel that it leaves them without the right support.

Now, it has launched the inquiry after hearing concerns that people faced barriers to complaining about or challenging decisions related to their social care.

Looking specifically at England and Wales, EHRC will examine people’s experiences of challenging decisions made by their local councils about social care or support for older and disabled people and unpaid carers. The body will look to see if these decisions can be meaningfully challenged if they fall short and if the existing ways to do so are accessible and effective, including whether high-quality advocacy support is available.

The equality body will also look into whether people are made aware of their rights to social care and support, and how they can challenge a decision they feel is wrong; whether local councils and other relevant bodies learn from challenges to improve decision-making in future; and whether effective systems are in place to check the quality and consistency of decision-making about people’s access to social care or support.

This will lead to a number of recommendations for local and national governments as well as other relevant organisations.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Decisions about social care and support carry crucial equality and human rights implications for people’s lives. They can affect the choice, control and dignity of older people, disabled people and unpaid carers, and their ability to maintain relationships, live independently and participate in their communities.

“We know that the social care system has been under significant pressure and many problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic. With vital decisions about people’s care being made under such pressure, it is essential that there are effective ways to challenge them if people feel they have been left without the support they need.

“That is why we are using our legal powers to launch this inquiry, to help make sure that everyone can live a dignified life and that people can speak up if they feel a decision has left them without the right care.”

EHRC’s inquiry team will gather evidence from adults affected by the issues in its terms of reference, organisations that provide advice, support and/or advocacy services to people trying to navigate the social care system, as well as local councils and national governments.

The full inquiry report will be published in 2022.

A recent report launched by Tunstall Healthcare and the County Councils Network has called for the greater integration of assistive technology within social care services to help alleviate pressure on pressures and advance social care provision.

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