This book principally covers social care, health and some housing services for various groups of vulnerable people including some elderly people, younger adults with disabilities (physical, sensory or learning), people with mental health needs, people with drug or alcohol problems, and informal carers. It deals mainly with adults only, but services for children in need and their families are touched on.

‘Community care services’ defined in legislation are provided by local social services authorities. That is, local councils with social services responsibilities, namely county councils, metropolitan councils and other unitary councils. Services are of many sorts, including residential or nursing home accommodation, practical assistance in the home, personal assistance, home help, respite care (breaks for people being cared for, or for their carers), holidays, daily living equipment, home adaptations, Meals on Wheels, day centres, recreational activities and so on.

However, in the sense that community care is about caring for people in their own homes or in institutional accommodation such as care homes, many health care and some local authority housing services are an essential part of the picture as well. For example, NHS policies and practices, including ‘care closer to home’ are an integral part of, or have a direct impact on, community care in a wider sense. And, in addition to the legislation directly governing the provision of social care, health and housing services, is a range of other relevant legislation. Decision-making by local authorities and the NHS has to be consistent also with the law relating to, for example, mental capacity, information disclosure, human rights, disability discrimination, health and safety at work and the tort of negligence.

On top of all this, some of the work of local authorities in protecting and safeguarding vulnerable adults overlaps with yet more law, including a gamut of criminal justice legislation, civil torts (wrongs) and environmental health legislation.


This edition has moved on from the past, containing new legislation, legal cases and ombudsman investigations. The chapter on mental capacity has in particular been expanded to reflect the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the associated case law. However, the chapter on safeguarding adults, an increasingly prominent issue, threatened to become outsized. Thus the relevant chapter in this book contains a basic overview only as in the previous edition; the detail has been hived off into a companion book to this one, Safeguarding vulnerable adults and the law.


The book is designed for use in different ways and at different levels. For the reader wishing for a brief overview of the legal framework and the underlying mechanisms determining how community care works, Chapters 2 and 3 will serve. The rest of the book comes in more detail:

Chapter 4 lists a range of non-judicial legal remedies, that is, remedies which do not generally involve going to court.

Chapter 5

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