On Thursday, I was invited to be part of a panel at the National IMCA Conference, discussing the implementation of the Care Act. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I had to contribute but thought that, if asked, I could talk about my experience with the personal budget. Regular readers will know that Hillingdon have a blanket policy of issuing prepaid cards to all recipients of a personal budget. I found using the card incredibly cumbersome and time consuming and was able to use the Care Act to challenge the blanket policy. The Act states that service users must be given a choice of how they receive their personal budget and by quoting the relevant paragraph, I was able to get the LA to agree to pay the budget into a designated bank account instead.
Ironically, as I was leaving the house of Tuesday to travel up to Derby for the conference, the postman arrived. I should have left the letters until I returned but I didn’t. One of them was from Hillingdon, ticking me off for not including the bank statement with the October audit form. The letter contained the usual threats about non compliance could result in suspension of the budget and I’ve been given until Friday to supply them with the necessary documents. It was an oversight on my part and I’ll hand deliver the statements tomorrow afternoon during my respite afternoon. The bank statements will say exactly the same as the laborious audit form I have to complete – I copy the data from the bank statements onto the audit forms.
When I got to Derby, I spoke to some of the social care professionals about how they monitor their personal budgets. I was told that they would normally carry out an audit three months after the first payment of the PB and as long as that is okay, will then carry out an annual audit from that point on. That seems to be the common arrangement across the country. Except for Hillingdon and their micro management insists that the audit is done monthly.
Now, I’m aware that the Care Act states that the LA should avoid the administration of the Personal Budget becoming “onerous” for the carer. I think I would have a pretty strong argument to say that having to devote three hours every month to the task is “onerous”. If I was allowed to do it once a year it would cut down considerably on time, paperwork and the money I have to spend on all the paperwork they require.
But. I’ve learned since Steven was transitioned into adult services that you pick your battles wisely. To challenge the professional decision never goes down well, despite proclamations of candour and openness to the experts by experience. Challenge, in reality, is normally seen as an attack and defensive positions are taken. And no matter how much in the right you may be, there is normally a price to pay for challenging the professional view.
As I wrote about in the last blog, life in the social care system is always precarious and every learning disabled person is one intervention away from having their life turned upside down. Any success in achieving something even remotely resembling person centred care is momentary, before the next upheaval commences. Sometimes, you just have to let a challenge go, to safe yourself for a bigger challenge that is undoubtedly waiting around the corner.
So, I might just let the latest breach of the Care Act go and continue with the monthly “onerous” task. Because as sure as eggs are eggs, something as challenging will come along soon enough.