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Adult social care information and advice toolkit: Step 1. What is information and advice?

This section outlines what information and advice for adult social care is and the need to consider a council’s wider information and advice offer, statutory responsibilities of councils with adult social services responsibilities, and Making It Real ‘I’ and ‘We’ statements about information and advice.

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Every council with adult social services responsibility has a statutory duty to deliver an information and advice service under Section 4 of the Care Act 2014. The duty covers a range of important topics such as how the social care system works, safeguarding, eligibility, independent financial advice and advocacy services.

However, information and advice go well beyond this. Making It Real, developed by Think Local Act Personal and the National Co-production Advisory Group, is a set of co-produced statements that describe what good care and support looks like. This includes co-produced ‘I’ and ‘We’ statements about information and advice, reflecting what people might reasonably expect from a good information and advice service.

Equally, chapter 3 of the Care and Support Statutory Guidance (CASSG) makes it clear that information and advice should go much further than a narrow definition of care and support. An effective information and advice service is a crucial tool for promoting wellbeing as set out in section 1 of the Care Act.

CASSG defines the term ‘information’ as the communication of knowledge and facts regarding care and support. ‘Advice’ means helping a person to identify choices and/or providing an opinion or recommendation regarding a course of action in relation to care and support.

This toolkit has been developed to help councils ensure they are: meeting all of their statutory duties; meeting the needs and expectations of their local communities in terms of the Making It Real statements; and able to draw on and contribute to good practice regionally and nationally in offering an effective and holistic information and advice service which fosters the wellbeing of all their local residents.

Effective information and advice goes beyond adult social care, requiring a joined-up approach. An issue may arise with someone’s housing situation, but the answer comes from the social care information and advice service. The same might apply to problems with debt management, divorce or separation, bereavement, job loss, or any crisis that disrupts the balance of someone’s life. Engaging with other council services considers this in more depth.

Statutory requirements

This section summarises adult social care council statutory responsibilities under the Care Act 2014, Equality Act 2010 and other legislation/regulations, including the Accessible Information Standard. Links to these documents can be found below.

Statutory requirements: Care Act 2014

The Care Act 2014 establishes the statutory duty to provide information and advice. The main reference is in section 4:

  • (1) A local authority must establish and maintain a service for providing people in its area with information and advice relating to care and support for adults and support for carers.
  • (2) The service must provide information and advice on the following matters in particular:
    • (a) the system provided for by this Part and how the system operates in the authority's area,
    • (b) the choice of types of care and support, and the choice of providers, available to those who are in the authority's area,
    • (c) how to access the care and support that is available,
    • (d) how to access independent financial advice [defined as financial advice provided by someone who is independent of the local authority in question] on matters relevant to the meeting of needs for care and support, and
    • (e) how to raise concerns about the safety or well-being of an adult who has needs for care and support.

Section 4 also states that this information and advice “must be accessible to, and proportionate to the needs of, those for whom it is being provided”. This aligns with duties under the Equality Act 2010.

Other relevant provisions in the Care Act include:

  • Section 2 (1): provision of services, facilities and resources, to prevent, reduce and/or delay people’s care and support needs;
  • Section 2 (2): identifying adults with care and support needs, and unpaid carers with support needs, which are not being met by the authority or otherwise.
  • Section 3: promoting integration of care and support [and by extension information and advice] with health services and health-related provision, including housing.
  • Section 13: providing written advice and information about meeting or reducing non-eligible care and support needs, and preventing or delaying eligible care and support needs arising in the future.

Chapter 3 of the Care and Support Statutory Guidance (CASSG) gives further detail about the statutory duties around information and advice, including:

  • The audiences for information and advice
  • Access to and quality of information and advice
  • What should be provided – information and advice content
  • When information should be provided
  • Accessibility of information and advice
  • Proportionality of information and advice
  • Financial information and advice.

Statutory requirements: Equality Act 2010

The two most directly relevant duties under the Equality Act are the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons (section 20) and the Public Sector Equality Duty (section 149). Both duties are covered in more detail in the Statutory Code of Practice published by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

The implications for information and advice include:

  • Ensuring online content is fully accessible. In practice this means adhering to Web Content Accessibility Guidance (WCAG) standards and other relevant accessibility standards.
  • Ensuring that information and advice is available offline as well as online. Offline provision goes beyond printed materials and includes telephone and face-to-face advice.
  • Anticipating the communication needs of different audiences for information and advice, and ensuring that it is provided in a way that meets those needs.

The reasonable adjustments duty only applies to people with disabilities. It might therefore require you to provide information and advice in large print, braille, audio format or British Sign Language. It does not cover the needs of people who do not speak English – however, Care and Support Statutory Guidance makes clear that councils should make provision for non-English speakers in the way they provide information and advice.

Requirements under the Accessible Information Standard

The Accessible Information Standard (AIS) was published in its current form in 2017 by NHS Digital (now NHS England). It requires all applicable organisations to identify, record, flag, share and meet the information and communication support needs of patients, service users, carers and parents with a disability, impairment or sensory loss.

“Applicable organisations” are defined as those which provide services directly to members of the public. There is little reference to councils other than as commissioners of services – although councils are clearly providing services direct to the public in terms of information and advice, needs assessment, financial assessment, care and support planning, brokerage and review.

This toolkit includes content to help you meet the AIS on the grounds that it is good practice to do so, and as a way of ensuring that information and advice is “accessible to… those for whom it is being provided” (s4 Care Act 2014).