COMMUNITY CARE / Community care launched with modest expectations: After a two-year delay, this week sees the introduction of a radical reform of social welfare, with a new system of payment and provision

ON THURSDAY, without fanfare or much fuss, the long-awaited new system for delivering community care to millions of elderly, mentally ill, disabled and other vulnerable people in Britain will be unveiled.

The lives of most of the population will ultimately be affected, directly or indirectly, as responsibility for the social welfare of the nation changes hands.

The system for paying for and providing social services has undergone changes as radical as those that transformed the National Health Service. Many of the reforms are driven by the same ideological principles and will introduce similar concepts, such as the purchaser/provider split; user, as opposed to patient, choice; mixed markets, using both public and private services; and, most unpredictable of all, prioritising or rationing.

Implementation of community care has been delayed for two years even though preparations have been underway since the 1990 NHS and Community Care Act was passed. They have gathered pace considerably in the past 12 months and reached fever pitch in the last few weeks. From 1 April, local authority social services departments will take over responsibility for assessing needs, purchasing 'social care', and in some cases overseeing 'health care' in the community. Most social care - 85 per cent of councils' transitional grant - must be bought from independent providers, mainly private nursing homes.

The involvement of the Department of Social Security in funding care services such as nursing or

residential care homes and some benefits for disabled people will not apply to new referrals and will gradually be phased out altogether. The Government's six key objectives, set out in the White Paper Caring for People: community care in the next decade and beyond, promise great things: 'To promote the development of domiciliary (care at home), day and respite services to enable people to live in their own homes wherever feasible and sensible; to ensure that service providers give high priority to practical support for carers; to make proper assessment of need and good case management the cornerstones of high-quality care; to encourage the development of a flourishing independent sector alongside good quality public provision; to clarify the responsibilities of social services departments and health authorities and so make it easier to hold them to account for their performance; and to secure better value for taxpayers' money by introducing a new funding structure for social care.'

Everyone - professionals, pressure groups and those for whom community care is intended - agrees that the aims are laudable. But many are sceptical whether they can be achieved without considerably more money than the Government has set aside.

The launch of community care will be a low-key affair. The Government has no special plans for a press conference or publicity drive. The changes would not happen overnight, a press officer said; there would be a long period of transition as they developed over the years.

Ministers, too, have been at pains to lower expectations since people realised that because of cash constraints, the 85 per cent rule and the fact that most cash will be spent on accommodating the highest and largest priority group - frail elderly people - in residential homes, few new services will be apparent in the first year.

Doom-and-gloom merchants predict chaos on a par with that caused by the closure of wards and banning of non-emergency operations in hospitals, as local authorities run out of money towards the end of the financial year.

So what are the hopes and expectations of community care? We have interviewed people from some of the groups that will be most affected by the changes, to find out what they think it will do for them, and we have asked those who are expected to deliver community care whether it will work. We hope to return to them all in a few months' time to see how the new system is performing in practice.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Developer / Mobile Apps / Java / C# / HTML 5 / JS

£17000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Junior Mobile Application Devel...

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?