I’ve always been keen on bringing a new approach and new thinking into my work.
I’ve always questioned the status quo. I’ve always grabbed opportunities to improve the way things are done. And I’ve always used my superpower of creative thinking to think differently about the way we do things.
Well over the past month or so my eyes gleaned when I saw a headline in The Guardian, “Responsibility for managing £5bn benefit for older people to shift to local councils”.
Yes, I thought, finally an opportunity to bring two parts of the welfare system together for the benefits of the user.
As long as the funding is given to local authorities with the right supporting legislation, this would provide a much more effective support system of the very people who rely on the welfare system.
Bringing the responsibility for Attendance Allowance into local authorities with social care responsibilities could take the welfare system to a completely different level. Especially if this is followed with other parts of the welfare system.
If you bear with me, here’s an illustration using the story of Ron to show why I think it could be a good thing if it is done correctly.
Ron lives with his wife, Lynette.
In his spare time, Ron likes to watch the planes at his local airport. He likes puzzles, meeting his friends and going to art galleries in London.
Sadly, Lynette had a fall a couple of years ago on the ice outside her home. She broke her hip, hit her head and has lost a lot of confidence.
Since the fall, Lynette struggles to look after herself due to the pain in her hip and the reduced mobility. Due to the bang to her head she struggles to remember things too. And from her reduced confidence, she hasn’t left the house for 7 months.
This has meant that Ron doesn’t get out. He doesn’t go to watch the planes. He didn’t meet his friends. And he doesn’t go to art galleries.
Ron needs help.
So after much deliberating Ron asks his friends for advice.
They tell him to contact this local Council to request an assessment of Lynette’s needs and to contact the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to apply for Attendance Allowance.
So he approaches them both.
And they both send him long forms to fill in. Forms that ask the same questions – but in slightly different ways.
The Council send him a form so that he can do a self-assessment of the care needs of Lynette. He competes this and sends it back to the Council.
The DWP send him an Attendance Allowance form to so that he can tell them about Lynette’s care needs. He competes this and sends it back to the DWP.
Completing both of these forms has taken Ron about 5/6 hours. And in them, he had to repeat the same information about Lynette’s needs. He was starting to feel quite disheartened about his situation. He was realising how much his wife, his best friend and his rock had now changed. Thinking about this in such a way of making it hard for him to stay positive.
And then both the Council and DWP responded.
The Council helped him come up with a package of support to help look after Lynette. The DWP started to pay her Attendance Allowance.
Every year Lynette has a review from the Council.
When Lynette’s needs have changed 22 months after applying, Ron has to fill in another form for the DWP. The Council also then want to do another assessment.
Ron has to tell the story twice again.
Now, let’s go back to my thinking.
Giving responsibility for administering Attendance Allowance – with the right legislative changes – would enable the Council to integrate these assessment into a single assessment.
Ron would have contacted the Council and they would have done a single form, which could be focused around strengths, needs and what support Lynette and Ron currently have.
He would only have to tell his story once.
The review could also consider the level of community support that they could be using from friends, family and their local community. They could be given tailored information and advice. She could be paid Attendance Allowance.
The annual review could assess Lynette’s changing care needs over time and whether she qualifies for a higher rate of Attendance Allowance. Ron would only have to tell his story once.
I appreciate that not everybody that receives Attendance Allowance gets support from social care – and visa versa – but having an integrated would give an holistic overview of their needs. Plus qualifying for social care support will mean someone’s needs are great enough to qualify for Attendance Allowance – and if someone gets Attendance Allowance they are likely to be eligible for social care support.
Imagine how much better this could be for Ron and Lynette.
Then imagine where this could then be extended to.
The assessment could integrate both the carers assessment and assessment for carers allowance.
A housing needs assessment could be brought into.
So could the Personal Independence Payment for adults with a disability – and Disability Living Allowance for children.
And if an adult has a social care package of support, plus Personal Independence Payment, and a housing assessment, they are possibly going to be out of work so could qualify for out of work benefits.
Could this then all be brought together into a single Personal Budget.
And health could fit in too.
I know this sounds a little like Universal Credit. But this is not. This is welfare system that is designed around the needs of the person and gives them a package of welfare support that is designed to help them live their lives as independently, and with as much choice & control, as possible.
Yes, this would involve a lot of change, but I really do believe that the idea really could help people do life, better.
What do you think?
* Ron is a fictional character based on my personal and work experience