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19.04.16

Norfolk County Council bring in external auditor after personal budgets complaint

Norfolk County Council has brought in the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) to examine its procedures relating to personal budgets for disabled people following a complaint from campaign group Equal Lives.

SCIE signed a contract with Norfolk County Council in February to carry out an external audit of frontline services, with a particular focus on assessing and implementing the personal budgets.

Equal Lives reported Norfolk County Council to the CQC in February 2016 for disregarding its statutory duties under the Care Act 2014, saying it had administered cuts to personal budgets which were seriously hindering recipients’ ability to live independently.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said: “I would welcome the SCIE review if it helps implement the Care Act and make personalisation meaningful.

“However, given the culture within Norfolk and the level of resources, I’m not sure that can be achieved.

“The council is operating a social care system based on available resources, not on the legislation.

“What we want is a truly independent inspection that has teeth, which can tell Norfolk if it has breached the Care Act, where it has breached it, and what resources it can put in.”

A Norfolk County Council spokesperson said: “Norfolk County Council take our service users feedback very seriously and although we are confident that the council has acted appropriately the right thing to do is to review our procedures.

"SCIE are being asked to help the council examine the quality of current practice, guidance and procedures, and to provide the council with feedback and recommendations for next steps.”

SCIE have previously helped implement the Care Act, provided guidance to the Department of Health, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and provided advice on implementing the Care Act to Birmingham and West Midlands councils.

Council officials warned a Public Accounts Committee hearing last week that government spending cuts will make personalised budgets harder to implement.

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