Services to support an eligible disabled parent look after a baby – should the Adults’ or the Children’s services budget fund the meeting of needs? Or neither?

Would anyone care to engage with CASCAIDr, the charity, on an interesting stance we’ve come across in our first month – on a council NOT paying for services for a parent whose disability renders them unable to achieve the discharge of her responsibilities to a child?

Here’s the scenario:

A council says ‘You’re a long term physically disabled client of ours, we accept that. You have had a baby. That is a change of circumstances and we will review your plan. You can have 12 hours extra input a week on top of your own care plan for 8 weeks. Then we’ll hand the matter over to Children’s Services.’

After 8 weeks, the Early Years team notes that the child seems to be doing fine, so far, and conveys to the mother that the Early Years Panel isn’t likely to agree to fund ongoing services even if the child counts as a Child in Need under s17 of the Children Act.

The mother goes back to Adults’ Services which then says no, you cannot have any extra help. This is because ‘the father shares parental responsibility with you’.

The father is present within the family unit. He has reduced his paid hours of employment since the baby was born. The implication is that he should be doing more at home for this baby – the council will not say that he should give up work, but they are signposting the couple to paid child-care. However, he is the breadwinner for the couple. The relationship between the new parents has developed on the footing that the man will earn the money, and the woman will shoulder most of the responsibility for the baby whilst she is under 2 – which is a pretty commond arrangement for child care, in many families, in modern Britain.

This woman’s health is deteriorating given the extra difficulty the care of the baby involves on top of her own physical disabilities.

So, what does your council say, in relation to meeting need of this sort, after applying the eligibility regulations for adults’ social care, and having found that the woman’s condition makes her unable to achieve (applying the stretched definition which incorporates achieving but only with significant pain, distress, anxiety or taking significantly longer than others normally would, on a given outcome):

“(j) carrying out any caring responsibilities the adult has for a child.”

– We don’t do this, it’s a children’s services responsibility?
– We won’t meet these needs, if our children’s services team WILL pick it up? But we can’t make them, and we will just leave it to the client to challenge that stance if they say no.
– We can’t afford to provide what is in effect child care for children of a disabled parent, unless the child is at risk?
– We will meet these needs if we can charge your household the full cost of the services we arrange.

Where does the Care Act, or the regulations or the statutory guidance, allow for any of those stances, please?

Answers can be sent to belinda@cascaidr.org.uk – that charity wants to know what YOUR council is doing about this.

We think it’s an error of law, a fettering of discretion, irrational and a breach of statutory duty. Does anyone care to disagree, by reference to legal principle?

Belinda Schwehr

About Belinda Schwehr

Belinda has been a lawyer (both a barrister and then a solicitor advocate), a law lecturer at a university, and a trainer and consultant specialising in Adults' Social Care legal framework issues. She first became interested in social care law when the Gloucestershire case was running between 1995 and 1997, never having met a real live social worker, before that point! She regards social care as the most interesting field of law she has ever been associated with, combining aspects of public law, the regulation of power, economics, management skills, EU law, procurement, criminal law, incapacity law, land law and contract, and doesn't expect ever to tire of the stuff. If the Care Act is going to be the last word on it, however, she would like to think it was worth all that sitting there and getting fatter whilst thinking about how it should all hang together! She does glass craftwork and house renovations for a hobby, has one son in his twenties, and about 5000 online friends... soon to be 50,000, with any luck!

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