Money For Nothing
There’s been a couple of interesting reports in the past couple of days – both concerning money.
Firstly, Community Care reported that Northamptonshire Council have shelved their plans to charge people to have a care assessment. (http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2017/01/30/council-shelves-unlawful-plans-charge-social-care-assessments/)
Then I saw on twitter that there have been suggestions by providers of care homes (i.e. the managing authority) to charge the people being detained for their DoLS assessment at £250 a time. (http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2017/02/02/care-home-charges-residents-dols-authorisations/)
In the first case, the council spokesperson goes to lengths to reassure readers that the charge would only have applied to self funders. But that misses the point surely? What about the Care Act and the right to an assessment of needs? I listened to a programme on Radio 4 the other day which featured to senior officials from two major care companies. The first took mainly self funders; the second relied (about 80%) on their funding from the LAs and CCGs. There was a slight suggestion (although it wasn’t developed) that the self funders are extremely attractive to care companies because they can carry the burden of the costs. Once you have that mindset, that self funders are lucrative cash cows, it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how a charging policy for an assessment would have the money men drooling.
In the second case, I cannot seriously believe that anyone in the care provider board really think charging a resident to be detained is a cool idea. A decent chunk of people who would fall under the DoLS scheme won’t want to be living where they are detained but will now be expected to pay for that privilege. Least we forget, the “S” is DoLS stands for safeguards. It turns the spirit of the Mental Capacity Act on his head that rather than safeguard that fall within its scope, the safeguards can now be used to rip people off. And what happens if you don’t want to pay? Will the managing authority ignore the DoLS process and detain the person unlawfully?
There are precedents for this in the care world. Steven has to pay the Office of the Public Guardian £350 per year for the pleasure of having me as his financial deputy. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve worked out if I spend none of Steven’s savings, in six years time they will all be gone, eaten up by the OPG.
A few years back, I did a FOI about carers assessments. I know that some LAs are charging for a carers assessment. In my local authority, in the year the FOI request covered, they carried out 1121 carers assessments. Of that 1121, only 8 produced anything for the carer. If all those 1121 people got charged for their assessment, that’s quite a tidy income for the council.
It’s the double standards that astound me. The State goes to extraordinary lengths trying to prevent people from getting something to which they are entitled. Twitter is awash daily with tales of parents having to fight long and bruising battles over SEND issues. Expensive lawyers are hired to stop the LA having to provide special educational needs provision. I’ll never forget my housing benefit appeal and turning up for the tribunal to discover that the LA had engaged an expert housing barrister to represent them. At the second hearing, the judge found that the LA had acted unlawfully. Whatever they saved by not paying my benefit would have been cancelled out several times over by the legal fees. And the biggest areas of this horrid mismatch happens at inquests. The family of the bereaved can seldom get legal representation via legal aid but the State bodies can spend an absolute fortune of taxpayer’s money on defending their reputation.
LAs will try and rinse their clients off every which way these days. When Steven was in the ATU, I kept receiving invoices charging him £118 per week for his stay there. I wrote last year that the council has a policy to “reset” disability expenditure to zero every year when calculating the financial assessment and subsequently send out out a bill of charges towards the personal budget. You could easily miss that your expenditure has been ignored and start paying a contribution that you don’t need to make. When Steven moved last year, I discovered the LA does exactly the same thing with their council tax. Each year, or each change of address, the LA removes the disability marker from the council tax resulting in the disabled person receiving a full charge.
Every single example I have raised in this post has come about because of a conscious decision by a council committee. A group of men and women, with their integrity left outside the door, have sat around a committee table and discussed how best to rip their most vulnerable clients off in a way that won’t be found out or in a way that makes legal challenge virtually impossible.