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Dirty Cash

November 19, 2013

Today was Steven’s FACS assessment. It went okay. His social worker is a good advocate for his needs and was a good guide through the horrendous FACS form. This isn’t a post about the FACS – I suspect that at the end of the day, Steven’s budget will be reduced but not by a huge amount. I’m sure the RAS will throw out a ridiculously inappropriate indicative budget and we’ll have to go before Panel for them to agree to make up the shortfall.

No, this post is about the way our vulnerable sons and daughters are huge cash cows for anyone interested in making a profit from their lives. Three things came up today that made me feel queasy with the exploitation of it all. Ironically, there was a section in the FACS about protection from financial abuse but it certainly wasn’t on the agenda to discuss that the various people providing the support package may be the ones doing the financial ripping off. Since we heard about the move of home and the need to reduce Steven’s damages, I’ve had many people offering suggestions on what to spend the money on – some of the suggestions were crazy. I always have to consider that someone from the Court is going to inspect the accounts and so, quite rightly, as Steven’s deputy, I am answerable to them. It would not be a good idea to waste the money.

Anyway, the first thing that came up was Steven’s transport. Because it was agreed back in 2010, that Steven finds travelling on buses very anxiety provoking and there is a risk if he should have a meltdown on a packed bus, it was included in his care plan that social care would cover his transport costs. They use the cab firm that we have used for years. The social worker showed me the invoice for August – it was deeply shocking. Even for the shortest local journey, the cab firm were claiming £20. I do the same journey to work and on my Wednesday late night, I sometimes get a cab home if it is pissing with rain. I get charged £8. That’s a £12 profit they are making – just because they can.

Secondly was the usual discussion about the fees the support agency charge. I loathe the course these discussions always take – because their fees are so high, Steven may have to have his support reduced to a more affordable level. Now hang about a minute. It is the LA’s choice to commission services from agencies – they are implicit in the profit making. I suggested again, that the LA give me the whole lot in direct payments and I’ll pay the workers myself. At present, Steven’s support comes from 2/3rd agency and 1/3rd direct payments. The LA won’t entertain that suggestion because they have a ceiling on the amount of direct payment hours they award and Steven’s total hours exceed that ceiling. Same thing. It is their own policy that determines this decision – change the policy. I’ve been trying to do a costing and I reckon I could save the LA about 1/3rd of their costs on support if they pay me the whole lot as direct payments. But they wont because it means them losing some control. They’d rather trust suppliers who are ripping them off than family carers who might act with a bit more integrity. It’s the respite argument all over again – I could cut a third off their expenditure; the support workers would be ecstatic because I could pay them more than the agency and Steven wouldn’t have to lose out on anything. The only loser would be the agency but they only have themselves to blame for setting their fees so high.

The third unsavoury aspect was with the LA themselves. Gingerly, the social worker mentioned that from now Steven will be charged for some of his package – for the service he receives. I asked her what service we were talking about and she replied that it was for “outreach”. Steven doesn’t use any council outreach services, although as regular readers will know, that means meeting in Costas. So, what is his outreach? Just having support workers take him out is now classified as outreach – the definition has been broadened. Steven pays for the place he is going to, pays for the support workers snacks whilst they are out and now he will be charged for the vague service called Outreach.

What does it all add up to? I’ve no idea of the actual figures but of the three “professional” organisations involved in providing Steven’s care we have (1) a cab firm making a 150% profit on every journey they take him on; (2) a support agency making a 100% profit on every hour they provide a support worker for, and (3) a Local Authority who have a Fairer Charging Policy that now encompasses a vague service called “outreach” that the service user can’t actually quantify what it’s for.

And there was I two weeks ago, wrestling with the question on whether a bedside lamp might be viewed as excessive waste of Steven’s damages.

It’s all a bit of a lark this safeguarding business. A big business at the expense of the most vulnerable. And the cruelest thing is that they get blamed for this expensive business. Ghastly.

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From → Social Care

13 Comments
  1. duncfmac permalink

    Outrageous! No doubt this course of action is the “best value” approach for the L.A.!

  2. Meg permalink

    This is where we get to in a monetarist society I guess Mark. Everything is reduced to a ‘product’. Including people, particularly those so vulnerable they ‘need’ some help/assistance/support that profit can be made from.
    It’s immoral. Laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.
    I put need in inverted commas because these services vulnerable adults are provided with are basic, real needs; housing, socialisation, safeguarding etc, they should not be treated as niche markets and cash cows. Filling real, basic, human needs should not be seen by anyone as a niche market nor a moneymaking opportunity in a civillised society.
    Workers need to be paid enough to live on; pay rent and bills, buy food etc. Beyond this, any notion of profit other than investment in improving services is just bloody wrong in my eyes.
    There should not be a care ‘industry’. There should be care services. Provided on a basis of need, not cost.
    Hang on, that’s beginning to sound like the National Health Service. Or how the NHS used to be.
    Bottom line I suppose is that because we have a moneterist system, nothing happrns unless someone is making money from it.
    Sorry if I sound a bit ranty, it is a bit early for coherent thought!

  3. Sally permalink

    Mark, there was a talk US Senator Barbara Boxer used to give in which she waved a small bit of plastic piping about and invited her audience to suggest how much it cost. Estimates always ranged from about 50p to a pound, our money. She would then reveal that the Defense Department paid about a thousand pounds for it. Oh, was it special in some way? Special material? Hidden components? No. It was just piping, but the supplier has got a very lucrative arrangement with Defense and could make a huge mark up on something they could get for nothing at the local hardware store.
    Its the same in this case. Disabled people are charged vast sums for either nebulous concepts which can’t be quantified (“Outreach? How many hours a week of what is that and what is Steven paying?), or things at greatly inflated prices like the taxi ride. Ah, the Council and no doubt the Taxi firm may suggest-its a special service. Trans: either the staff are very good, perhaps even selected-or perhaps its suggested that our children are so potentially tricky to transport we should pay over the odds. The last suggestion collapses when you see the service is the same as if you hailed any cab in the High street .Well, then, is the service somehow monitored by the Council so that our children have some sort of extra protection? Nope.
    I’d get that lamp !

  4. Weary Mother permalink

    The commissioning of contracts in the Public Sector has seen both scoundrels and incompetents, Social care services are as open to this as any other, Perhaps more so because of the range and complexity of individual needs, and the primary profit motives of many service providers..

    Also because many commissioning managers etc have a background in social work and are playing catch up; learning the contracting job, on the job.

  5. We are also ploughing our way through similar issues with our LA. I feel your pain, I have no solutions sadly just the hope that you, me and the many families like us keep plugging away at the LA’s and trying to make the change happen. Perhaps we will make differences that will help the next generation. Good luck 🙂

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      Unless the policy makers start from the premise that our loved ones feel pain and rejection just like non disabled people, we cannot ever receive an equitable service. The amount of times in the long ago past have I heard paid carers say ‘well they do not any difference’ when they were being badly treated. All that seems to have stopped now, or has it? They may not voice it but alot of people still believe it and alot of these people are the people who make the policies. No wonder ‘challenging behaviour’ is on the increase, that is the only way our loved ones can demonstrate how pissed off they are with their lives.

      • Weary Mother permalink

        So true Pauline
        Many years ago I was engaged to help a team of professionals to deal with aggression they were experiencing from the partners of people with advanced dementia. When I asked how visits were planned and communicated, it emerged that the team just ‘turned up’, . The reason, was…….. ‘Well, they are always in, they cant go out’ !.

  6. Sally permalink

    Weary mother, it is still happening! I was recently arguing with a social services worker who would turn up very, very late , no call to warn of this,and then seem taken aback when I’d say it was no longer OK to have the visit. My son had been holding it together for X hours and that we had things to do. Even if we hadn’t, he had spent enough time all keyed up and needed to go back to his routine.
    Her answer, was, I swear, :”Oh, the appointment times we give are only approximate.”
    I’m sure she’d been able to show up on time for her last flight, her job interview lunch with a pal and her dental appointment, it was just a total lack of respect for us that made her feel able to drift in when she pleased.
    Ages ago I worked on a team which visited mentally ll people at home. We always always called to say if we’d be at all late and would explain why-eg: a sudden emergency call. We’d offer to rearrange if a wait was not ok-and we did that for people who were very confused or had not much on, because t shows you respect their time as you would anybody else….

    • Weary Mother permalink

      In the example I gave the professionals were ‘turning up’ while their very ill dementia patient was being bathed or fed.. No wonder the husband or wife, doing all the caring, got angry!

      How often have we parents had a clonkingly huge crises, where no one from social services could help until a group met to discuss it; this ‘meeting’ always taking a couple of months till ‘ ‘diaries agreed’. ”Computer always says no!” etc!

      These diaries always prioritised their routine (frequent) team gatherings etc..

      • Sally permalink

        Those poor spouses.
        And aren’t professionals taken aback when you are feeding/washing etc your son/daughter when they finally show, and don’t they just ignore it when you mention that, due to their lateness, its time for lunch and try to stop the interview!
        The number of times I have tried to feed an agitated son (Wondering why lunch is so late and why there is a stranger in the house) while a DCT worker stares us or asks me questions about routine/forms/whether he goes up stairs one foot at a time etc, etc!

  7. I had a problem digesting this .If the charge for taxis on a rate it is a blanket charge then it is unlawful.If they say Steven cannot have a Personal budget for self directed care then this is can also be challenged with a solicitor as many carers are doing so across the UK.I bet if you asked them to go over what they said in writing they would decline.Steven has the same right as anyone else to SDS if they have capped the ceiling its fettering .Wait for the document to be printed it will need your signature then seek a good solicitor .Problem is I don’t know what the savings limit is for legal aid

    • Fettering is one of my favourite words and using it seems to do the trick. When I was having the respite dispute, I said – “This seems like fettering to me” and it all got sorted very quickly. And I do believe that a local, random cap on direct payments is fettering

  8. Weary Mother permalink

    Fettering
    First time I have heard the word. But I am sure that is what has been/is happening to me and mine. . Also any one who has been dragged through the pointless toothless LA complaints processes will have felt the bruises, and chains and the manacles. They still hurt and are still on…

    I have asked our solicitor for clarification..

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