Little Care Act Battles

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.

13 thoughts on “Little Care Act Battles”

  1. Mark, this resonated strongly with me as Si has just moved into his own rented accommodation with his team of carers. Since then it’s been a bureaucratic nightmare for me trying to source benefits, juggle with the Deputyship orders, setting up accounts, paying bills when the bank won’t grant a card just a cheque book, finding insurance for his car etc. etc. I’m hoping that when the dust settles all this will become a little easier but I have the time and wherewithal to sort all this out what happens to those that don’t?
    Putting people into the community is a great thing but the support on many, many different and diverse levels must be there and easily available for them.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, pick your battles, and no one could know that more than you, it is unacceptable that we are still sometimes left with no choice but to challenge as it is often a matter of survival for those who cannot fight for themselves. The power imbalance is over whelming, unfair and as a result dangerous.

    The culture of demonising families who challenge wrong decisions, needs to be continually brought into the open and rooted out, where ever and whenever found. It is time to stop colluding with blaming families and time to stop the resulting ‘Open season on families’.

    Respect and dignity are words not often implement.

  3. Whenever I read about the burdens placed on social care users and their families by other local authorities I realise how fortunate I am to have a local authority who is still user-focused and sensible in its requirements. I would be utterly shocked if my local authority tried to exert the degree of control that Hillingdon does on you and Steven. But I agree that, given the reality with Hillingdon, you’re wise to pick your battles; some extra work each month is a minor inconvenience compared to what you know Hillingdon could do if it was minded to make your life really difficult.

    My other thought is that although we’d love the Care Act to be more radical than it is, it is clearly providing some protection for social care users that didn’t previously exist.

    Great article!

  4. Can’t believe how fortunate we are as our son’s provider does all of this and our LA are really good at working with families to help them through the work DP can bring. I used to dread the paperwork in the beginning but soon outsourced it and used my respite time to be with my younger sons. It is a difficult balance but thank goodness The Care Act is there to support us through all of the challenges we face. Keep up the wonderful work Mark, you are amazing! x

  5. if you request your audit annually after three months there is every chance your wishes can be accommodated even with a substantial PB. Your LA will be only too happy to bestow trust in your continued ability to manage the budget if your record keeping is all that it should be. Monthly audit is too intrusive, it is well worth making the request . An annual audit can take place at the home of the budget holder . Once those five weeks of contingency funds being held over are signed off it is good bye until next year, a nod to private life.

      1. No, my daughter did it , fought for them in her words ” to be out of her arse ” , she lived for three years independently before she died and she was audited annually on a PB for 24/7 support. She was severely disabled physically and had severe communication difficulties from adult onset illness but she stood her ground The LA wanted to audit monthly, but then they wanted her to have a live in agency carer of their choosing followed by the suggestion to relocate to a residential placement after the first year of the tenancy, all in the name of self directed support. They quoted her HB costs along with the PB for the rationale. If no one uses the Care Act nothing will change, it is not just about onerous tasks relating to the management of the PB there is the right of the budget holder to go about their life without observation of their activities on a monthly basis. Surveillance is unacceptable, fight it, the legislation already exists.

    1. You’re missing the point Nic. Making a verbal request most definitely isn’t starting a battle. But, the way it is received can often mean you find yourself in a battle.

  6. agreed the pattern is usually ask and you shall not receive from cradle to grave but credit where it is due, annual audits are agreed all the time. On this one you request and if the answer is no you ask again at a later date. Painless for once . Happy happy days, heard yesterday of an annual audit agreed for two budgets that transferred from the ILF, a small grace that wasn’t requested at all. I don’t think I missed the point/content of your post, the title sort of said it all. Picking your battles is the strategy most people use and I know many operating on a daily basis at the outer limits of endurance with caring responsibilities or illness, some both. Any legislation on the books that supports rights needs utilizing. Sorry about your stamina, now that is a lost cause, it is parked next to my friend’s menopause permanently set aside for when you have time to go back and look for it.

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