A Novel Safeguarding Issue?
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?
From → Social Care