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Tony Mudd: Long-term care requires joined-up thinking

Financial advice is the key to helping care professionals fulfil their legal duties 

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With apologies to Voltaire (and Spider-man), it feels apt, in respect of the Department of Health’s Care and Support Statutory Guidance following the Care Act 2014, to echo the dictum “with great responsibility comes the need for collaboration”.

I am not suggesting, as Voltaire was, there is a disturbing misuse of authority as a result of the Care Act. Indeed, quite the reverse. The statutory guidance places a considerable and heavy burden of responsibility on local authorities and the individuals at all levels within them.

As the guidance makes clear, discharging these responsibilities will require the involvement of a host of professionals. These professionals include care providers and advisers, solicitors, equity release companies, care home and domiciliary providers and non-regulated and regulated advisers.

Only by bringing all these individuals together and ensuring they work in a coordinated and joined-up manner can the statutory guidance can adhered to and the needs of the residents, carers and their families be met.

While I would not underestimate the challenges involved with assembling such a group of individ-uals, regulated advisers are in the best position to make this happen.

I am not in any way suggesting the difficulties of this market can all be solved by  advisers but, as Andrew Dilnot was at pains to point out in his white paper that preceded the Care Bill, lack of advice was the root cause of many problems.

This theme was not only carried forward in the Care Act itself but also in the recently issued statutory guidance. At 431 pages, it is a weighty document, at times repetitive, and there are one or two inaccuracies (for example, the calculation of notional income where an individual has pension funds available) but it is essential reading for any adviser operating in this market.

Chapter three of the guidance  is of particular interest:

  • Financial advice is fundamental to enabling people to make informed choices about how they pay for their care. It is integral to a person’s consideration of how best to meet care and support needs (3.36)
  • Local authorities are required to establish and maintain financial information and advice on matters relevant to care and support… They must ensure people are helped to understand how to access financial advice which is independent of the local authority (3.38)
  • Local authorities should seek to give information that would be particularly pertinent to an individual’s circumstances (3.44)
  • The local authority must support people to make informed, affordable and sustainable financial decisions about their care throughout all stages of their life (3.46)
  • The local authority should have a clear view on the information and advice services available locally, what they provide and take a role in joining up information and advice organisations locally so that they can work collaboratively (3.48)
  • Staff… should have the knowledge to direct people to financial information… explaining the differences and potential benefits from seeking regulated or non-regulated financial advice (3.49)
  • Local authorities should be able to accurately describe general benefits of why an individual should take financial advice (3.50)

Some of these are worth examining in a little more detail. For example, how are local authorities in 3.44 to provide information pertinent to an individual’s circumstances without knowing a reasonable amount about their financial circumstances, their attitude to succession, their risk profile and so on? In 3.49 and 3.50, there is a clear need for local authority staff to receive training and ongoing support if they are to describe the benefits of taking advice and to explain the differences between that which is regulated and non-regulated. 

Finally, 3.48, in many ways, sets out exactly what I am proposing, that local authorities need to join up all the advice and services available to an individual.

I am not underestimating the challenges. I am not suggesting a marriage of public services and private practice is one made in heaven. However, having worked with many advisers who specialise in the care sector, I know they are as passionate about helping clients as anyone working in this arena and are willing to collaborate with all parties to ensure clients receive the best outcome, both socially and financially.

Tony Mudd is divisional director of tax and technical support at St James’s Place 

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