Yesterday, I received three letters and an email. All of them came from the council. From four different teams who clearly don’t speak a word to each other.
The first letter was from the Housing Benefit department and a response to my complaint from six weeks ago. You may recall that I received a notification out of the blue from them, informing me that “due to a notification we’ve been alerted to”, they were stopping Steven’s housing benefit back to the date he moved into his new home in October 2016. When I phoned them, they told me that an “indicator” had appeared on their system, alerting them that Steven had never moved into the flat. By a strange quirk of fate, they sent out the first letter on the same day that the Housing Manager came to meet Steven for the first time.
Anyway, yesterday’s letter informs me that the overpayment was caused by and error on their part and has now been corrected. From allegedly owing £4080.57, Steven now correctly owes nothing. In fact, he is £23.60 in credit because I have paid his service charge in advance.
The second cab off the rank was from the direct payments team. Three weeks ago when I queried with the social worker what was happening to the Personal Budget increase, she told me the paperwork was with the direct payments team awaiting processing. I wrote to them in an attempt to speed the matter up as it is now 22 weeks that the Personal Budget has been underpaid by £135. Today’s letter (3 weeks later) was just letting me know they have received my letter and the matter will be attended to in due course.
Last Monday, I received a strange email from Steven’s social worker. Once again, this was a response to me chasing her up about the Personal Budget shortfall. She replied that the financial services team had been trying to contact Steven to do an up to date financial assessment (the last one was done in October 2016) but their letters had been returned “not known at this address”. It turns out they had been sending them to Steven’s old address. The following morning, I woke up with the thought, “Hang about. I’ve got all the post on redirection for a year”. If it had been sent to the old address, the Royal Mail would have forwarded it on as they have done with many other letters.
Was this a white lie? Was it just another blatant delaying tactic to hold off paying the additional £135? Trouble is, you can’t call these things out – you immediately become the villain. So, I let the matter go.
Yesterday, a letter arrived from the Financial Services team, informing me that they have done a new financial assessment anyway based on the figures I gave them six months ago. Fine by me. And the upshot was, another “no change”. No financial contribution towards the care package.
Buoyed by the information in the three letters, I ate my breakfast believing that there was nothing now to stop the Personal Budget increase being paid. The next payment is due on 26th and they are bound to say it is too late to make that payment run but I started to foolishly feel confident that it might make the July run.
Then I got the email. Social worker wants to come and visit on Friday to update Steven’s needs assessment. It hasn’t been updated since the old social worker did a reassessment, the week Steven moved last year. Apparently the Personal Budget has been agreed by Panel but can’t be actioned until the needs assessment is brought up to date.
What has changed? Nothing in relation to Steven’s needs. He still has exactly the same eligible needs as he had last October. The only change is that the needs that I was meeting when I was at Steven’s are now being met by the support staff on the days I’m not there. Alan is helping Steven with his teeth cleaning on Wednesday and Friday instead of me.
Of course, it is a heap of bureaucratic nonsense. It is incompetence. It is the complete opposite of multi disciplinary working.
It is also shameful delay tactics. It will probably take the social worker a few weeks to write up her reassessment, so it now seems unlikely that I’ll get the new rate of PB in July.
Oh, and by the way, every time I’ve checked whether the increase will be backdated to the original date of request, my question is ignored. I’ve already had to pay out £2750 from mine and Steven’s savings to cover the shortfall as the support workers still need to be paid. I might not get that back.