This chapter is adapted from the Care and Support Statutory Guidance (Department of Health and Social Care). Whilst the statutory duty of promoting wellbeing lays with the local authority, the principle should be adopted by all agencies working with adults with care and support needs to reflect the spirit of the legislation. This chapter contains sections from the Guidance.

1. Introduction

The core purpose of adult care and support is to help people to achieve the outcomes that matter to them in their life. Throughout the Care and Support Statutory Guidance, the different chapters set out how a local authority and its partners should go about performing their care and support responsibilities. Underpinning all of these individual ‘care and support functions’ (that is, any process, activity or broader responsibility that the local authority or partners perform) is the need to ensure that doing so focuses on the needs and goals of the person concerned.

Local authorities and their partners must promote wellbeing when carrying out any of their care and support functions in respect of a person. This may sometimes be referred to as ‘the wellbeing principle’ because it is a guiding principle that puts wellbeing at the heart of care and support.

The wellbeing principle applies in all cases where a local authority and its partners are carrying out a care and support function, or making a decision, in relation to a person. For this reason it is referred to throughout this guidance. It applies equally to adults with care and support needs and their carers.

In some specific circumstances, it also applies to children, their carers and to young carers when they are subject to transition assessments (see Transition to Adult Care and Support).

2. Definition of Wellbeing

Wellbeing is a broad concept, and it is described as relating to the following areas in particular:

  • personal dignity (including treatment of the individual with respect);
  • physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing;
  • protection from abuse and neglect;
  • control by the individual over day to day life (including over care and support provided and the way it is provided);
  • participation in work, education, training or recreation;
  • social and economic wellbeing;
  • domestic, family and personal relationships;
  • suitability of living accommodation;
  • the individual’s contribution to society.

The individual aspects of wellbeing or outcomes above are those which are set out in the Care Act, and are most relevant to people with care and support needs and carers. There is no hierarchy, and all should be considered of equal importance when considering ‘wellbeing’ in the round.

3. Promoting Wellbeing

Promoting wellbeing involves actively seeking improvements in aspects of wellbeing set out above when carrying out a care and support function in relation to an individual at any stage of the process, from the provision of information and advice to reviewing a care and support plan. Wellbeing covers an intentionally broad range of the aspects of a person’s life and will encompass a wide variety of specific considerations depending on the individual.

The concept of meeting needs recognises that everyone’s needs are different and personal to them. Local authorities and their partners must consider how to meet each person’s specific needs rather than simply considering what service they will fit into. The concept of meeting needs also recognises that modern care and support can be provided in any number of ways, with new models emerging all the time, rather than the previous legislation which focuses primarily on traditional models of residential and domiciliary care.

The principle of promoting wellbeing should be embedded through the local care and support system, but how it promotes wellbeing in practice will depend on the particular function being performed. During the assessment process, for instance, the local authority and its partners should explicitly consider the most relevant aspects of wellbeing to the individual concerned, and assess how their needs impact on them. Taking this approach will allow for the assessment to identify how care and support, or other services or resources in the local community, could help the person to achieve their outcomes. During care and support planning, when agreeing how needs are to be met, promoting the person’s wellbeing may mean making decisions about particular types or locations of care (for instance, to be closer to family). To give another example, the concept of wellbeing is very important when responding to someone who self-neglects, where it will be crucial to work alongside the person, understanding how their past experiences influence current behaviour. The duty to promote wellbeing applies equally to those who, for a variety of reasons, may be difficult to engage.

The wellbeing principle applies equally to those who do not have eligible needs but come into contact with the care and support system in some other way (for example, via an assessment that does not lead to ongoing care and support) as it does to those who go on to receive care and support and have an ongoing relationship with the local authority and its partners.

It should also inform delivery of universal services provided to all people in the local population, as well as being considered when meeting eligible needs. Although the wellbeing principle applies specifically to each adult, the principle should also be considered by the local authority and its partners when undertaking broader, strategic functions, such as planning, which are not in relation to one individual. Wellbeing should, therefore, be seen as the common theme around which care and support is built at both local and national levels.

Factors will vary in their relevance and application to individuals. For some people, spiritual or religious beliefs will be of great significance, and should be taken into particular account. Local authorities and their partners should consider how to apply these further principles on a case by case basis. This reflects the fact that every person is different and the matters of most importance to them will accordingly vary widely.

4. Independent Living

Although not mentioned specifically in the way that wellbeing is defined, the concept of ‘independent living’ is a core part of the wellbeing principle. The Care Act includes matters such as individual’s control of their day to day life, suitability of living accommodation, contribution to society – and crucially, requires local authorities to consider each person’s views, wishes, feelings and beliefs.

The wellbeing principle is intended to cover the key components of independent living, as expressed in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (in particular, Article 19 of the Convention). Supporting people to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible, is a guiding principle of the Care Act. The language used in the Act is intended to be clearer, and focus on the outcomes that truly matter to people, rather than using the relatively abstract term ‘independent living’.