Occupational therapists working in social services departments and delivering community care continue to be subject to anxiety about the legality of some of their actions. This article considers aspects of relevant legislation, decisions of the law courts and recommendations of the local ombudsmen. Community care law, afflicted by uncertainties and rapid change, sometimes lacks neat and precise answers; even so, legal awareness will assist occupational therapists to ask the right questions about the lawfulness of the local authority policies to which they work and of the individual decisions flowing from those policies. Readers might conclude that they face a formidable legal minefield, but will also observe that the principles applied by the law courts coincide to a significant extent with good professional practice and basic common sense. For example, judges have dealt with issues such as individual and holistic assessment of need, the importance of assessment as a benefit in its own right, bringing an open mind to assessment, taking account of what service users have to say, looking out for exceptional needs, identifying a range of solutions, formulating coherent care plans, writing accurate letters and keeping good records. In combination, lawful decision making and good practice form a dual incentive for occupational therapists to improve standards of service, even if both are sometimes jeopardised by the short cuts forced on local authorities by limited resources.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: August 1, 1998
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The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.
BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at http://www.cot.co.uk/british-journal-bjot/british-journal-occupational-therapy
Submissions can be made at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/bjot
The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.