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Councils warned against capping personal care budget under Care Act

Councils cannot set maximum budget levels when calculating the cost of people’s care, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

The advice was issued after an investigation found that Wiltshire Council operated a policy of placing people into bands and paying in line with those bands, regardless of need.

The ombudsman has warned that this is contrary to the Care Act.

It became aware of the council’s system after a woman, whose adult son has “substantial and complex health problems and disabilities,” had her support cut significantly and complained to the ombudsman.

Despite the son’s care needs remaining unchanged, the council carried out a new assessment of his needs when the family moved home and reduced his number of respite nights to 68 a year.

It said that this reduction would be introduced gradually, but instead it was done immediately.

The new assessment also reduced his transport funding, with the council asking the gentleman’s mother to drive him to daycare twice a week - a change that was introduced immediately despite the mother saying that she was unable to do this.

An investigation by the ombudsman found that the council was at fault for using an outdated matrix tool to calculate the amount of support offered to the family and reducing the support offered immediately, rather than as a staged reduction.

Additionally, it was found to be at fault for the way in which it reduced the family’s funding for transport.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Councils cannot put a cap on people’s budgets: the Care Act says eligible needs must be met, regardless of the cost.”

He explained that the reduction in support, along with the haste with which the changes were introduced had a “significant impact" on the man’s mother.

Wiltshire Council has accepted that the formula that it used to calculate people’s budget was not in accordance with current guidance and has agreed to stop using it.

The council has agreed to apologise to the man’s mother and restore the previous levels of respite care, pending a re-assessment that is compliant with the Care Act.

PSE has contacted Wiltshire Council for comment.

Top image: vm


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