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The OPG Strikes Again

February 22, 2017

Hoisted by my own petard!

Having written yesterday that in Steven’s and my brand new world, I will probably have less to write about, this morning I received a letter from the Office of the Public Guardian. This is in relation to the Deputy report that I submitted at the beginning of January. There have been several letters going backwards and forwards over the past few weeks but today they’ve turned their attention to a new subject.

Steven’s income goes into an account in his name and each month I transfer a sum into my account to cover his direct debits and the shared bills. Today’s letter asked me to provide more information about this expenditure. The information is contained elsewhere in my report as I do a monthly spreadsheet but it doesn’t fit smoothly into the boxes on the official form.

I phoned the OPG to ask what further information was needed and the woman read out the paragraph the assessor had written and it ended, “This expenditure seems unusually high for someone in his circumstances”.

I am immediately shocked and fearful by a statement like that. A judgment has been made and I am forced into a position where I have to justify our reality. I questioned the presumption that £X per month is too high. Steven pays £X per month for his health club membership; £X per month for use of the Arts Centre & £X per month for the Mencap pool. The rest (approx £X) is for household bills, like food shopping, fuel bills, service charge on his flat, TV licence. Is that too much?

Once again we got into that ridiculous conversation about how the weekly shop is apportioned. Some of it is solely Steven’s but some of it is shared. We both drink the milk, we both eat the bread, we both wipe our arses on the toilet roll. I split the cost of those things about 50/50 even though I’m spending far less time at Steven’s house. In the end, I had to agree to submitting two recent Tesco itemized bills, with notes over who uses what!

And even though, the OPG has had the contracts for the health club and the other places before, they want them all over again.

This strikes me as the same old, same old. It’s not about safeguarding Steven’s financial interests: it’s about justifying their role. It’s what the state does with aplomb – to justify their role, they make you go through hoops justifying your role. For each of the five years since I became Steven’s deputy, I’ve submitted the annual report on time in the first week in January or early. Each year it has been June before the report is signed off. With pointless laborious correspondence between January and June.

Rhetorical question – what would happen if I resigned my deputy role?

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37 Comments
  1. simone aspis permalink

    surprised that the OPG did not think that the expenditure on gym and arts centre and swimming pool was too high – how many people with LDs do we know spend £79 per month on gym membership. I pay £33 per month that in London (compare like with like) – that’s okay if Steven wants to go to a posher gym than me that his choice and right to do so. My virgin membership used to be about £60 per month about 10 years ago – the OPG should not deny disabled people luxury – surprise they do not ask photos of Steven using the gym just in case you are sneakingly using his membership. And for the shop – what is the evidence for what is spent on what – Tesco receipt with a few scribbles from you do not provide evidence of anything – I guess It keeps another pen pusher in a job! – I am amused by the redilious systems in place.

    • Helen permalink

      Don’t really understand this comment – there may be all sorts of reasons why this may be the right Gym for Steven and it is sure is cheaper and my goodness better for Steven than an ATU. It may actually be cheaper than your cheap Gym – depending on travel arrangements – rather strange sentiments

    • Simone – you’re doing exactly what the OPG did and making a judgment on what Steven pays. I wrestled for ages on whether to include the actual figures because I didn’t want Steven judged. I’ve now edited the post to remove all figures.

  2. simone aspis permalink

    Mark I know of many parents of disabled children with complex needs that just get on with life – they d not have deputyship and still have oversight of all their child’s money from whatever source and can still provide support for their lives – unclear why you had to go down the deputyship route whe others have not. You clearly know your options.

    • Jules permalink

      As an adult and if our kids (adult) don’t have capacity to make financial decisions like bill paying, filling out forms or/and helping to make decisions then they need a person who can help them and become their Deputyship. Without it it becomes illegal to use their bank card to make purchases when they can not or pay their bills as the account is in their name. The money is still theirs but to ensure it is spent Ina sensible way and is not abused by others. As for using it on gym memerships and the cost, I find that very offensive and judgmental. There are many different reasons why Steven will go to that gym but that is Stevens choice and his right to choose just like it is your right to choose how you spend your money and what you spend it on.

    • Biggest mistake ever. I took the solicitor’s advice when Steven was awarded damages for 2010.

  3. Fiona permalink

    I believe if you resigned the deputy role they would have to appoint a social worker to do it. At least this was what the DWP told me when managing my son’s benefits was leading to too much conflict between us. I haven’t actually tested this yet but might well do.

  4. oh dear, can you bend over backwards and make sure your bum isn’t in the picture at all ( because it isn’t going to be much ? )Steven’s spends on exclusively Steven’s needs and wants will keep everyone happy. Think there is a charge for LA appointed deputyship if and when . Things were going so well !

  5. simone aspis permalink

    wow I not making a judgement – that was not my intension – I do not see anything wrong with anyone spending money on the gym – as I said that is Steven’s choice. Just because I say its a luxtury does not mean that a disabled person should not have it. Okay what I may call a luxury is my judgement – I own that judgement – however everyone should have luxuries whoever they are. I have luxuries – my holidays, going out to eat once a week, seeing a film etc Stephen may think I have luxuries – that does not mean that I should not have them either. I am not siding with the PGB either – All I meant to say is because society expects people with LDs to not have a life, then this raises questions when they money is spent – more than what the PGO may think is “normal” – if its normal for peanuts to be spent on people with LDs – then unfortunately the PGO may take the same view I think people on benefits (whatever they are) should have sufficient oncome so that they can enjoy luxuries of life – after all its not their fault if the capitalist system is broken in so many ways both fir disabled and non disabled people!

    • simone aspis permalink

      Mark maybe you should not include any figures including the ones related to Stephen’s compensation as well – as that one is open for judgement – someone may think its too much, too little or should not be awarded anything in the first place.

      • simone aspis permalink

        PS do not include the cost you have spent on doing Steve’s flat up either – that cost was up there.

  6. This is confusing .Surely the OPG would inform you that the cost of Stephen’s needs are the responsibility of the state and his needs would include activities such as Gym Art and any activities which contribute to his health and well being? These should be included in his care plan and costed. I am having problems understanding that the officer is knowingly allowing Stephen to spend his protected funds on services when the duty lays with the Local Authority . Do they even check he has a proper assessment ?

    • weary mother permalink

      Oh you are so right.

      Local Authorities have scraped the bone to the marrow, in relation to support they will provide for even very vulnerable people.

      One stroke of a very brutal pen has removed all support from very many people, by reducing the former rating of ‘substantial’ – which means eligible for some support, . down to ‘moderate’ – which can mean gets no support at all.
      .
      All support is self funded out of benefits. If support is essential – but no LA/agency support provided – then no access to outings far less ‘luxury’?

      A’s impose eye watering charges (LA charges vary,) for all support directly employed or contracted – on people living in so called ‘supported’ living, This is taken out of their benefits; these huge charges can leave little if any cash for any community contact – far less the ‘luxury’,,,of a cup of coffee in ‘Costa’ etc..

      Many volunteers who in past took people to Mencap clubs etc – no longer do this – and if no volunteers – no club – for taxi fairs can be huge..and all comes out of same benefits.

      All else must be funded/found by family. If no family….no outings..far less ‘luxury’… at all.

      Life of luxury..my..a..e.

  7. simone aspis permalink

    that sounds a little doggy to me – what if those activities are not included in the care plan – then how should the OPG decide if the money is spent in the best interest of the person – its probably not a great idea to have OPG deciding whether the money has been spent wisely based on care plans if they do not include activities that reflect the disabled person’s interests.

    • This is nonsense Simone. The damages was a court judgment that was released by the court into the public domain. Neither Steven nor I have any control over that. I’m astonished that you as an advocate are making these judgements. The fact Steven is having to justify how he spends his income is discrimination and that was the point of this post. Somebody receiving Maternity Benefit or a Retirement Pension wouldn’t have that degree of scrutiny. I feel disappointed that any mention of money, whether it be £1 or £1k, should trigger a judgemental reaction.

      • could be that the ‘ shared ‘ spend is the sole interest of the OPG , small ‘ personal ‘ purchases made weekly could add up to a significant fraud . Terrible to think it happens , but in reality it probably does.

    • Its not so much spending the money wisely but from which pot it comes from . Each will have it own criteria for spends . If the activities are not in the care plan and costed it means the assessment and care plan are unlawful and do not meet the needs of the individual there is no requirement for Stephen to use his own money for care I assume the judge /CoP would have made that clear in the settlement if they have not then they has failed Steven . The OPG are now looking at the social care side,Councils are always trying to get at people’s compensation pots to fund care. Institutional financial abuse is rife throughout the country and I have told at least one local authority to re-do a assessment by the CoP
      I will get more information about this if I can. Basically they are looking at all the finances of the person not just the figure of the settlement and it could be to protect them from the council as much as anyone else

      I

      • only have ‘ old’ experience here ( 2010 ) local government ombudsman compensation award , specific confirmation given by the officer that it could not be means tested. Surely Steven’s managed settlement should be entirely disregarded for care ( I honestly thought it would be ) insufficient first hand experience.

    • LizzzieD permalink

      Far as I know, the OPG has little interest in care plans, or the personal idiosyncracies of the client – they just oversee where the money goes. They don’t get involved in arguments about self funding either. As usual, family deputies are a bargain, but treated with suspicion. It seems they do come across a fair amount of fraud – but mainly the children of the elderly pre-empting inheritance. And, like the DWP, not that good at dealing with it. Understaffed and over-worked. You can ask for a “panel” deputy – quite expensive. Wise to steer clear of the whole deputyship thing if you can – it is very complicated.

      • There has been a recent shift and they do now look at the whole picture. A Council has been instructed to do a proper assessment. Council’s continue to challenge the CoP decisions and ‘get at’ the funds.It is only right the OPG see the whole circumstance .How can they act in the best interest if they don’t ?

  8. weary mother permalink

    Social care budgets are massively subsided by people like Mark and other families.

    The cash cost saved to LA’s and NHS, is not just financial – it is also in never being free ..of….. stress and anxiety and fear it,,,,,,it steals lives..and happiness. We are never asked for invoice or to send a bill…for all of this.

    And yet more is collected from us in energy when we ask why ? And yet more in the long years fighting through the law and complaints processes, just to achieve some of what our sons and daughters are legally entitled. And yet even more is used up fighting for justice when they abuse..us and ours.

    Other creative cost saving ruses by LA’s: will place people with LD who do not have emotional or behavioural issues in ‘supported living’ accommodation with people who do. Saving a fortune – and handing care and support responsibility – to powerless vulnerable people. All free to the State…at point of….

    I know of at least one individual who, .I believe, would be in an ATU if it was not for the always steadiness and full time compromises provided by another learning disabled resident. ..just another unpaid carer. .Free at the point of…

    People who have learning disabilities, married and on benefits – are not eligible for carers allowance. They too care for each other…come free at point of !

    Mark, and all the rest of us …do it all – free of cost to the State…And at same time we are all perceived as – at the very least – over weaning dis – enablers of our sons and daughters,

    And as potential crooks likely to predate our sons and daughters.

    Strewth,

  9. Shirley Buckley permalink

    Martin’s care in his residential care home costs £2,400 a week. He is made to pay £24.85 a week towards this care. 3 years ago the LA asked for a breakdown of the charges made by the home, and then never mentioned this again. Half of the £2,400 is paid by Chiltern CCG under continuing health care, although they have assessed Martin as not being eligible for continuing health care. He goes out, if he is lucky, alone, once or twice a week to a pub, cafe, or take away. He has to pay himself for these meals. The LA are only paying him his DLA, and not his mobility allowance, nor have they done this for nearly three years. He is under a DOLS. Perhaps I should send this to the Public Guardian and ask him to ask the LA for a breakdown of the costs. We could attach it to your accounts. Steven’s compensation – you won a battle there for all of us – and, in any other context other then the CoP no one would have ever tried to touch the money. I wonder what would have happened if you had put it into a discretionary trust for Steven?????

    • Hi Shirley I hope you don’t mind me sending this, Its just when you wrote ”The LA are only paying him his DLA, and not his mobility allowance’ struck a note and I remembered this .I am sure it is still pertinent within the new care act but I have not checked . The act of parliament that states that one can not charge against the mobility component or use it in any assessment of income is ” The Social Security contributions and Benefits ACT 1992 Section 73 (14) ” therefor they should not remove it

      • Shirley Buckley permalink

        The LA should be paying his mobility allowance, but they are not. Totally incompeteny. What I meant was that the Public Guardian should look at the LA in the same light as Mark,and put the same questions – ha ha

    • It’s the mobility component that’s usually paid when living in residential homes, but not the care component.

      • lisa permalink

        Yes mainly so the ‘care’ staff have a nice vehicle to drive, making life easier for them.

      • weary mother permalink

        If learning disabled people have attendant mental health diagnosis – and are in NHS ‘care’ – then their charges are met by NHS ? As are for older people who have a diagnoses of mental ill health who are in NHS care – while similar people with ‘only’! a diagnosis of dementia, say, and who have savings over a very lowish sum, self fund care.?

        Charges for people with LD who have no diagnosis of mental ill health, currently pay for support out of benefits, directly to LA ?.

        As already commented on, these charges in my experience can be brutally high – depending on the individual LA’s ‘fairer charging’ process.

        Thus leaving some learning disabled people in their ‘supported’ care, with very little left in their purse, after food costs.

        Would it not be excellent, when the promised increases in social care funding come on stream, that these LA’s look first at reducing these unkind support charges, before they raise salaries for the people managing this higher budget ?

  10. simone aspis permalink

    Mark unsure where the disagreement is – absolutely agree that there is discrimination – all I am saying is that people with LDs income should allow for them to have luxuries – why are you taking such an issue on that – from my postings it seem that luxury = judgement. Okay I am making a judgement and I am happy to say that yes I would like disabled people to have an income (whatever the source) that allows them to have the choice between having the cheapest of some things whilst being able to afford to spend more the minimum on other things – surely that is what we all do – we may spend more money on some things than others.

    • simone aspis permalink

      and I should have added that the OPG must allow that – this is what we all do to more or lesser degree. And yes in an ideal world we should bot have the OPG either – unsure why you are submit to this when there are parents who are doing the same thing managing the financial and welfare affairs on behalf of a person with LDs that needs that assistance.

  11. LizzzieD permalink

    Simone, I don;t think you quite understand how the OPG operates. They are the administrative arm of the Court of Protection – and getting involved with them isn;t a choice if sums of money other than benefits are involved.

    A welfare deputyship MIGHT be worth having – but the Court won’t often allow it to family members. When it comes to Financial Deputyships, families would do well to avoid it UNLESS something like negligence settlements or inheritances are involved, and then you ONLY get a choice of whether you are deputy or someone ELSE chosen by the Court makes ALL financial decisions.

    Being an appointee makes much more sense usually.

    • If there is supported living, then parents often have to be deputies to sign tenancy agreements.
      I know several parents who are welfare deputies, but I have close family members who’s step in as deputies for finance if something happened to me.

  12. Pauline Thomas permalink

    The workforce in the OPG would be much better employed working for the government department that looks into the affairs of the MP’s expenses (ducks and moats spring to mind) and the The House of Lords scandal of signing in and going home and still getting a day’s pay! Much bigger fish to catch there, instead of looking for a tiddler in a Tesco bill.

  13. simone aspis permalink

    Lizzie – I put my hand up and say I do not understand – what is why I asked the question – so has Mark not had a choice because Stephen got compensation from the court – so if Stephen did not get compensation then Mark could just administer Steve’s affairs without the OPG? I only asked because I know of parents performing the same role and their sons and daughters have “complex” / “severe LDs – but are not court deputies- so they escape the nosense. So if any of my friends children receive an Inherience o compensation then my friends would have no choice is that correct Lizzie?

    • LizzzieD permalink

      As far as I know, that is how it works, but the CoP has some very strange ways of working. You can APPLY to be deputy, but being an appointee is much simpler.

      When the MCA first came in, I rang up to ask. They asked if she had any funds apart from benefits, and when I said no, told me not to bother. A compensation settlement, the money is paid INTO court and administered BY the Court through a deputy. You are told, through a Court Order, what you can and can’t do, and have to account for it in detail.

  14. simone aspis permalink

    Agree Pauline – Maybe the OPG should be looking into how LAs are spending the money on behalf of people subject to DLS – I understand the law commission is producing a report at the end of March – hold my breath – was not impressed by the draft recommendations that would permit more depreivation of liberty without any due process. – Wednesday night Despatches – a programme about people with autism stuck in the hospital system –

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