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A Novel Safeguarding Issue?

March 6, 2016

You often read Court of protection stories where families have been financially ripping off P. I don’t think I’ve ever read a judgement where it’s been the other way round – where the State has been mugging P.

It’s that time of year again. That time when my management of Steven’s affairs comes under the spotlight. yesterday, I completed the annual Office of The Public Guardian forms to audit how I have managed Steven’s finances in my role as his property and affairs deputy. Sitting on my dining room table, is the Council’s annual Personal Budget audit forms. It doesn’t matter that I have to complete an audit every month – they want an annual one as well! And on Friday, a huge envelope dropped on the mat. It was the HMRC pack of forms I need to complete for the end of year tax return for the support workers’ wages. Personalisation eh? What a boom that has been to carers everywhere.

Completing the OPG forms yesterday was very revealing. Steven has two accounts: a normal current account that his benefits get paid into and a savings account that hold his damages he was awarded after the illegal detention in 2010. The first year after his damages were awarded, there was a fair bit of expenditure from that account. If you remember, three months after the Court ruled that Hillingdon had to pay Steven damages, they made us homeless. When they eventually found Steven a home, 14 months later, he needed to use a large part of his damages furnishing the place. Also, he had to pay the full rent for the first few months as Housing Benefit decided his damages put him above the HB threshold. His damages halved very quickly.

This year has been different. I’ve hardly had to dip into the damages account. WE had that once in a lifetime holiday last summer but I paid for the holiday, the support workers wages and the minbus hire myself. I was fortunate because the Upper Tier Tribunal decided that stopping the Housing Benefit two years earlier had been illegal and the council were forced to pay all the back pay which nicely covered the whole cost of the holiday. As an aside, it still shocks me, that we have been on the receiving end of two major illegal acts from Hillingdon in three years, that have had enormous, life changing consequences.

Anyway, totting up the expenditure from the damages account for this year showed that I had only drawn on the account five times. £70.50 for some new shoes and pyjamas. £154 for a new Hifi after Steven’s old one finally bit the dust. £185 for a new cooker after he broke the glass door on the old one. The two main expenses from Steven’s damages account were: £350 to the court for “deputyship fees” and £550 to Hillingdon for “backdated care charges”. Total expenses of £1309.50, of which £900 was to the State just because Steven is disabled.

I know what the Care Act says but Hillingdon don’t taken into account any disability related expenditure into account when they do a financial assessment to ascertain a contribution towards the care charges. In fairness, Steven doesn’t really have any of significance. His weekly benefits easily cover his household expenses: the utility bills, his food shopping, his memberships etc. I used to think it unfair that he was expected to pay for his support workers’ lunches whenever they were out, so now, they do their meals when they get back home and the only concession has been that I’ve had to give over one of the kitchen cupboards and a shelf in the fridge for their food. That really is no problem.

I always feel a real guilt when there is disability related expenditure and I’m involved. Last night we went to see an Abba tribute band. The theatre didn’t do concessions, so the tickets for the four of us came to £88. I could have not gone and left it to the two support workers to go with him but I knew that Steven was very keen on me going as well. Feeling guilty about having to explain the £88 expenditure to the OPG, I split the bill. I paid £44 and Steven paid £44. It doesn’t happen very often but it feels the right thing to do when it does happen.

Going back to the issue of safeguarding from State financial abuse, those figures from the OPG audit frighten me. Hillingdon have assessed that Steven must pay £23 per week towards his personal budget. That’s £1196 a year. Add on the £350 fee to the Court of protection and that’s £1546 every year Steven has to pay out for. Just because he has a learning disability.

The starkest truth is that even if those figures don’t increase and I don’t spend another penny on anything for him, by 2020, all of his damages will be gone. The money that was meant to give him a better life will all be back in the State’s hands.

And then what will happen? Will he be expected to pay the OPG fees out of his benefits? Or will I have to step in and pay them for him? Imagine that – I’d have to pay £350 a year for the privilege of being scrutinised for being Steven’s father.

It is a safeguarding issue. Isn’t it?

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From → Social Care

14 Comments
  1. Fiona permalink

    Shocking, I wonder how many people are aware how quickly and easily councils claw back what they give, or often what central government DWP benefits pay out.

  2. MrTrebus permalink

    Would it be possible to revert back to being a DWP appointee? If it’s just benefit income you manage for Stephen. This has no charge and much less paperwork. Worth checking with the LA that you could be the authorised individual for the PB though. Good luck!

  3. techiebabe permalink

    Wow. Foolishly, I had assumed that the amount of damages paid would not only set Steven up with a safe home for life but, y’know, cover any costs to keep things ticking over. You’re spending what, a grand a year from that, yet it will be gone in 5 more years?!

    I’m not asking how much the award was, and I’m sure that the amount spent from that to get the flat set up was significant, but I’d have thought that the compensation for robbing over a year of his life and causing significant ongoing trauma – his panics at Christmas for example – that he’d have been given much more of a safety net. Awful.

    I guess I’m lucky that in Waltham Forest we are encouraged to list disability related expenditures when being assessed for care payments. (A moot point in my case as I don’t have any income of my own except DLA.) Surely all boroughs should consider this? But what is not so lucky is only getting 8.75 hours a week. My health has significantly worsened, I fought for 38 hours, expected 20, and was told I was lucky they rubber stamped the existing deal. I intend to appeal but haven’t yet had the energy, and nearly a year has passed… I’ll save this for a post of my own, but if anyone thinks getting support is easy – it ain’t. So many non-disabled people just assume assistance grows on trees and wheelchairs etc. fall magically from heaven. Ha. Sadly we know better, eh?

    Finally, the Abba gig. Wow, I bet Steven loved that! I can see why it was an almost essential event for him! But I don’t understand why theatres don’t provide concessions. Gig venues do. Cinemas do. Festivals do. Theatres… generally don’t. (The only London exception I’ve found was Stratford’s wonderful Theatre Royal, where staff also treated us like royalty.)

    I could not get to, and cope at, a theatre on my own. I’ve explained that they really ought to either allow me to bring a PA for free OR to provide assistance to me as needed, which may include urgent dashes to the toilet at any time. They don’t. What with having to pay for minicabs and so on (while others might take the tube), a trip to the theatre is definitely a luxury. If every gig venue – big or small, cheap or pricey – can do this, then why do theatres still have their heads stuck up their arse in the sand?

    Ah, money…

    • simone aspis permalink

      Steven a relative who had cancer got theatre tickets that did not only cover her if she had assistance whilst having cancer treatment but still receives the discount now after full recovery – after 5years of remisison has passed. Do not think the relative even had to have a carer – could be a friend or whoever – and should say this is London theatres – Maybe u should contact Shape

      • techiebabe permalink

        Accessible tickets usually need to be booked exclusively through the venue, and they even sometimes ask me for proof of DLA, claiming that some people will hire a wheelchair to get cheap tickets!

        If you know a way to get 2 for 1 seats (ie free PA with the disabled person) at Central London theatres I’d be delighted to learn it, since quoting equality law hasn’t worked in my case.

  4. Lizzie D permalink

    This idea that “family” finances can be neatly divided and set out on the Report form s a bit quaint, isn;t it? If I buy a bottle of shampoo and we both use it, am I supposed to split the cost? Of course your do nothing of the kind, so most of us just go on subsidsng costs and having a nervous breakdown about what goes where on the form.

    You absolutely should NOT pay the fee yourself – it can be waived, and should be lower anyway once the compensation has gone. You do wonder who it is that is being compensated, don’t you, when you end up being charged for care. And the £400 fee every time you need the Court’s permission to do something probably seems modest to professionals., but by the time I have finished filling in a CoP1, !A, !E, 3, and 24, I feel like someone ought to be paying me!. I even had to fill in a form telling my daughter officially I was filling n forms. A professiional deputy can charge thousands for this, but as usual parents are regarded with suspicion.

    When I first learned I would have to add the CoP to my daily complications I was aghast. I do now feel that they CAN exist as a proper safeguard – if you get the right judge, and have got used to their ways.

    .

    • I think, the COP, was created by the MCA, to remove all rights of the LD/autistic, and anyone else, who could possibly be deemed ‘incapable’ of making a decision.

      And, to earn as much money for itself, the Guardianship office, and the lawyers.

      Before, the MCA, parents/carers, were able, to get the disabled person to sign an enduring power of attorney, deliberately created in 1987, to enable people, who may lose capacity, to not lose the right to have their chosen person, look after their affairs.

      These were created for life, with a small one off fee and no monitoring.

      Now, a fortune must be paid out for Guardianship, which is often, in any event refused to a parent.

      And, generally, as a matter of routine COP invalidates Lasting Powers of Attorneys, illegally by declaring the maker was incapable at the time of execution, despite the presumption, under the MCA, that a person is capable until proved otherwise.

      No, the government and state have contrived, to spend as little as possible on the care of the disabled living with their families, and ensured a lucrative income, at the expensive of a family carer for themselves.

      Care providers paid on average £3,500 per week, do not have the expense, and work of continually monitoring and guardianship.

      In fact, little is known as to what they do with the large sums they receive.

  5. Shirley Buckley permalink

    Nark and Finola I have an EPA donated by Martin 2000, witnessed by a solicitor. Martin had capacity. It was ideal. In 2014 the LA told the DWP I was misusing Martins funds (a lie) and removed me as “appointee” which I was not I had EPA. Both the LA and the DWP insist that although they made mistakes in filling out the BF56, their appointeeship is legal.Both the DWP and the LA hold the valid EPA. It is all ILLEGAL and we are pawns in the biggest scam of the century. No-one in the Court of Protection in the 10 years i have been there has mentioned CAPACITY MUST BE PRESUMED AND ALL PRACTICAL HELP MUST BE GIVEN

    • So what hope is there, when our own courts, and state institutions, act illegally, and hold the vulnerable, and their families to ransom ?

  6. Shirley Buckley permalink

    NATIONAL MENTAL CAPACITY ACTION DAY 15 March 2016 !!!!!!!!!!!! Would you believe it

  7. Lizzie D permalink

    Scary. Boils down to who is guarding the guardians, doesn’t it? Is there ANYBODY with power on our side? I suppose it is like the “scroungers” factor – one bad apple and we all get condemned. Parents of adults SHOULD back off if that is possible, but not in the circumstances we can find ourselves in.

    My own experience of the CoP has been relatively benign so far – apart from the mind boggling costs and bureaucracy. When I read some of the judgements i wonder if looking after Money gets in the way of “best interests”. My daughter has no clue about finances, but does have the capacity to know who she trusts, and what is important to her. I do think their are (some) good laws in place, but the legal logic can seem more than a bit rarified.set against the realities. And good laws don;t help if you can;t get anyone to listen.

  8. Sally permalink

    I am appalled at the mountain of accounting you are required to fill in monthly,years and the steady disappearance of Steven’s money. I am also perplexed about the charges. You are doing the accounts. You are hiring the workers. You are doing mountains of unpaid work. What exactly is the council providing?
    I totally understand anybody given the role of protector or guardian need to be scrutinised steadily . If I drop dead I want anybody taking on that role to have to justify regularly and at snap inspections just how they are looking after my son and helping him fill his days with nice things.,But I am not hearing that any of this is to assess how well you are taking care of Steven .
    I don’t think I have read any news stories “Work shy social services rip off thousands fromthe vulnerable” in the tabloids.

  9. Interesting paper and selection of words. Keep up the strong effort, mate!

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