Book Review: “Community Care and the Law” (6th edition)

Community Care Law (6th edition) (Luke Clements, with Karen Ashton, Simon Garlick, Carolyn Goodall, Jean Gould, Edward Mitchell and Alison Pickup, Legal Action Group, 2017, paperback and ebook, £65.00)

A great deal has changed since the last edition of this Bible for community care practitioners was published in 2011.  First, the legislative framework has been consolidated and in significant parts amended by the Care Act 2014 (England), and the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014.  Second, Pauline Thompson is no longer with us to help navigate through the waters and fight the battles.  Luke Clements pays a moving tribute to her at the start of the book, and the book itself (in this edition specifically named the “Pauline Thompson Memorial Edition”) stands as a tribute to the groundbreaking work she did in this area.

Whilst the book itself stays at roughly the same length as its predecessor, weighing in at a hefty 942 pages (of which an impressive 840 pages are narrative text), there have been some significant changes to its coverage.  First, it no longer seeks to cover issues relating to disabled children, this now being the subject of a separate (excellent) LAG book, which is available for free here (and from the LAG bookshop here).  Second, and reflecting the divergence between England and Wales, the book does not seek to give any coverage to the 2014 Welsh Act.  This is entirely understandable, as Luke and his team of co-authors have more than enough on their plate to deal with in England.  It is, however, a source of real regret, and indeed concern, that there is at present no book out there providing the same sort of authoritative analysis of the position in Wales.

Turning back to what this book does cover, one of its great strengths is that it places the Care Act in its context and in its history.  Some of this history is very deep, and of considerable interest are the thumbnail sketches of the way in which the pendulum of concerns and drivers have swung backwards and forwards over time.  Of very practical use is the detailed and expert commentary on where pre- Care Act case-law, guidance, or other materials may still be of relevance in the post Care Act world, and where, by contrast, the Act marks a radical departure.

Although not expressly stated in the introduction, the book is – for the most part – reflective of the law as it stood in January 2017, although it does (impressively) manage to include coverage of the Law Commission’s Mental Capacity and Deprivation of Liberty proposals published in March 2017.  The decision in the N case in the Supreme Court on available options and best interests came just too late for it, although the approach it sets down was anticipated in the chapter on the Mental Capacity Act, and for my part I regret that the authors were not able to include coverage of the Davey decision from February as I would have liked to have seen their take on the approach taken by Morris J to well-being, and extremely his minimalist approach to the centrality of the individual’s wishes, at odds with the maximalist interpretation suggested in the book.

Within its new self-defined limits set out above, this edition is extraordinarily comprehensive, roaming far beyond the Care Act to include (for instance) useful coverage of the relevant provisions governing information, data protection and confidentiality.  I can confidently predict that it will, as with its predecessor, become very well-thumbed in short space of time by those who purchase it.

Finally, some may wonder whether it is worth purchasing this book alongside Stephen Knafler QC’s recent book for LAG on Adult Social Care Law.  For my part, the answer is yes as the latter serves a different purpose – primarily consisting of extracts from key cases, legislation and guidance.  The selection of and introductions to the extracts is expert but does not pretend to the level of detail of commentary of that provided in the work under review.  And, at the time of writing, there is no need to choose between the two as Stephen Knafler’s book is available for a limited period of time free online.

[Full disclosure: I am grateful to the publishers for providing me with a copy of this book. I am always happy to review works in or related to the field of mental capacity (broadly defined)]


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