Charging before a financial assessment is carried out?

I have come across a case of a client being sent an invoice (and a demand for immediate payment) before the care planning process has been completed and before a financial assessment has been undertaken. This appears to be the usual practice of the council in question. The amount seems to be quite moderate. It could be argued that this is a nominal amount. And I can understand the rationale. Presumably, and understandably, the council’s intent is to make it clear to the client as early as possible that social care is a chargeable service and get them acquainted wth the idea of paying for it.

So far, so good. The difficulty is I can’t find a lawful basis for this under the Care Act!

If services are already in place at this pre-completion of the care plan stage (and they are in the case in point) then I can only see two potential scenarios.

(1) The services are being provided under s.19 powers to meet ‘urgent needs’. This is the most plausible legal basis for the service currently in place in this case since a positive eligibility determination has already been made. If this view is correct, then the power to charge for them comes from s.14. But the s.14 power is dependent on a financial assessment under s.17 and it is clear from the wording of s.17 (“thinks that it would charge“) that the financial assessment must be carried out in order to determine the level of charges before charges can actually be levied.

(2) The other possible view (though with less basis I think) would be to argue that the services are being provided as preventive services under s.2. There is a separate power under s.2 to charge for these services and use of this power does not require a financial assessment under s.17. So fine then? Well the problem is that Reg. 3(2) of the Prevention Regs requires that “(2) A charge must not reduce the income of the adult concerned below the amount specified in regulation 7 of the Care and Support (Charging and Assessment of Resources) Regulations 2014(A) (minimum income guaranteed amount).”. Given that no financial assessment has been carried out and no financial questions of any kind have been asked of the client to date, how can the council possibly know that the charges it is demanding would not reduce the adult’s income below the minimum income guarantee level? I cannot see how a council can get around this without carrying out some sort of financial assessment even to levy charges for a preventive service.

So, I sympathise with the rationale, but I think this approach may need some reworking. The trouble with invoicing people for charges without a statutory basis for making the charge is that there aren’t going to be any options, if clued-up people decline to pay.

Yo Dunn

About Yo Dunn

Yo blogs about social care, law and autism. She is a trainer and consultant who works across the public sector (primarily in social care and education), specialising in autism, legal frameworks and intersecting areas. More information at: www.consultyo.com and www.linkedin.com/pub/yo-dunn/3b/a6b/284. Yo has an academic background in social policy analysis and her doctorate is in educational research. She is autistic and a self-confessed legal geek. She is an experienced and well-reviewed public speaker and deeply involved in the adult autistic self-advocate community.

2 thoughts on “Charging before a financial assessment is carried out?”

  1. Bridget

    Dear Belinda

    Please can you look at my questions which I believe may affect many people. Please feel free to edit, I may have gone on a bit! Please contact me if you need further clarification before responding. I hope you will consider this as a useful query for others. I can provide my surname too but I don’t want to publish my full name,

    Many thanks

    A very worried parent
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
    Here is the query:

    Can the council take all or most of the mobility allowance?

    My council states that the Care Act allows them to take the mobility allowance to fund day service transport and has included the plan in a draft policy to be implemented in 2016. All service users will need to be reassessed by March 2016 and Support plans revised.

    My son, who lives in supported living, faces losing all of his mobility allowance for day service transport. His remaining transport costs, afternoons, evenings and weekends, will be considered as DRE. There is no guarantee he will be allowed to keep sufficient funds. These charges sit outside of the MIG and there is no MIG for mobility allowance. The DRE transport assessment will determine if he is entitled to keep money for essential travel, leisure, medical appointments, specialist holiday transport, shopping etc. I believe this will put huge restrictions on freedom of movement and the ability to get on with everyday lives.

    Even if transport to the day service is specified in the support plan the council says it can still charge £10 or even as much as £17 per day. Transport has never been separately costed for specialist day services. It has always been included in the total rate for the specialist service.

    My son requires 2:1 support in the community and cannot travel on public transport. He has to travel with trained support workers and I believe this forms part of his care and support needs. My son has complex and challenging needs and it was health professionals and Social workers who identified the day service as the best way to meet his needs and keep him safe. It is likely he will have joint CHC and social care funding but he will still make a financial contribution towards his care. My son did not ‘decide’ to go to the service but the finance team’s view such provision as his decision on how to spend his personal budget and so he is liable to pay for transport.

    The plan is out for consultation but the council is adamant the Care Act permits this, so it WILL happen. In fact, the officers have been very blunt and said they are after the mobility allowance.

    Please can you clarify:

    Is transport for some a care support need or eligible need?

    If transport is specified in the support plan, does the Care Act require the service user to fund from the mobility allowance?

    Can the council take the whole or most of the mobility allowance higher or lower rate?

    Is there a MIG for the mobility allowance?

    Are there equality or human rights implications for restricting travel for the most vulnerable? (Presuming all or most mob allowance funds day service transport).

    1. Belinda SchwehrBelinda Schwehr

      Hello! thanks for your enquiry. I am cogitating about the answer but I would stick my neck out and say this is wrong in principle. Will come back on this one as soon as possible. Loving the question though!

      B

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