Examining the right to challenge decisions about adult social care

The ability to challenge decisions made by local councils about adult social care will be scrutinised in the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) latest inquiry.

Decisions about people’s access to social care or support, such as someone’s entitlement to it and what kind they can access, can seriously 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.

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

The EHRC has launched the new inquiry after a range of organisations working on issues facing disabled and older people raised concerns that people faced barriers to complaining about or challenging decisions related to their social care.

Looking specifically at England and Wales, the equality watchdog 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.

It 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 commission will also explore:

  • if 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.

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

person holding pencil near laptop computer

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.’

The EHRC 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.

A short survey asking for views from social care users and their loved ones, as well as unpaid carers, has also been launched to kick-start the inquiry’s evidence collection.

The full inquiry report will be published in 2022.

The full terms of reference are available here.

Photo Credit – Scott Graham


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