Somerset Community Care Matters does not just cover mental health, but a wide range of subjects concerning community care law.

Why was this project formed?

Somerset Community Care Matters is a new project providing specialist advice, help and casework in the field of Community Care law, the term which applies to all advice about healthcare from the NHS, social care from social services and disability rights and entitlements to care and support. It is a registered charity, established by a group of local people concerned to ensure that the county's citizens could have access to legal help to enable them to secure their right to community care services. It began operating as a project housed within Mind in Taunton and West Somerset in early 2011.

Les Bright is an independent consultant in social care, having previously worked in local government and the voluntary sector at local and national level.

So, what's so special about SCCM?

Perhaps it would be better to explore the reasons why such a service is necessary, and some of the challenges that exist for people in need of community care services. We are experiencing such challenging times, with local authorities being required to save money we may not yet have seen the worst.

Community Care - 20 years of change

"Community care is a poor relation: everybodys' distant relative, but nobodys' baby." The introduction of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, phased in over a two year period from 1991-93, was the beginning of a 20 year period of change - and many improvements. As with the present Health and Social Care Bill currently before parliament it was described as being the biggest shake-up of the welfare system since the inception of the modern welfare state in 1948. It would be very easy to ignore those important changes and to simply draw attention to current pressures, and some of the fallout from the budgetary difficulties which are facing the public services and knocking on into the rest of the health and care economy, causing work for organisations like SCCM. But that would be unjust and incomplete.

Somerset County Council was among the first local authorities which decided to stop running care homes for older people at the beginning of the 90s, and is now seen to be a market leader in the provision of care, especially for older people.

The introduction of FACS

Fair Access to Care Services – in 2003 was intended to "right the balance" so that users needs were measured and responded to within the context of a consistent set of criteria ranging from "critical" -where risk to life and limb exists-to "low" - where '…inability to carry out one or two personal care or domestic routines' affects a person's quality of life.

I believe that the presence of an effective organisation could also affect the way in which local authorities and health bodies respond to their population, maybe leading to changes to their policies and practices.

© Les Bright, June 2011

Download full paper (PDF)