Which council should be buying the advocacy input for “out of area” clients?

On my travels doing training, I am being told that when a council telephones an out of area advocacy provider, because the council has a client in that other area, who needs advocacy, the organisation is often saying “No, we are not allowed to do advocacy for you – we are tied to doing it for this council, the one who is paying us.” Then the council in need says “Well we would pay you, of course – but we need a local advocate” the organisation still says “No, it’s in our contract – we can only do it for the local council”.

Clearly this is madness in light of the Care Act policy. It isn’t co-operation as between councils; it ignores the freedom of the advocacy organisation – unless wholly in the financial control of the purchasing council (which would not be terribly impressive from the ‘independence’ perspective!) – to sell services to whomsoever wants to buy them; and it scuppers the provision of mandatory advocacy services  – or makes it cost twice as much, in times of austerity.

What does the guidance say?

Continuity of care and ordinary residence

7.29. The local authority which is carrying out the assessment, planning or review of the plan is responsible for considering whether an advocate is required. In the case of a person who is receiving care and support from one local authority and decides to move and live in another authority, the responsibility will move with the care and support assessment (see chapter 20).

[that bit of the guidance needs to say – we feel sure – “…if the person is simply moving to ordinary accommodation, of their own volition, and not taking up a place in specified accommodation as a resident or a tenant, through the auspices of care planning done by the council that USED to be responsible – for all of those people will be able to assert continuing links with their old council.”]

The guidance goes on:

For a person whose care and support is being provided out of area (in a type of accommodation set out in the section on ordinary residence) (see chapter 19) it will be the authority in which the person is ordinarily resident.

[my comment here is that that is at least consistent with the legislation, because it is underlining that living out of area under a care plan can mean that it is not the authority on the spot which will be liable to pay; and the advocacy obligation should of course go with the authority that is responsible.

But it is not so helpful to people wondering what should happen when a new setting elsewhere than in the place where they are currently living has been found or is going to need to be considered, due to care planning concerns or where a change of status needs to be acknowledged: for instance, from a long term rehabilitation placement, paid for by the NHS out of the person’s original area, not yet counting as CHC, and now perceived to be coming to an end.

My view, applying general, and Care Act principles, is this: when a person is provided for by the NHS – wherever that happens to be – it does not change their place of ordinary residence for social care purposes. When a rehab package is believed to have achieved its purpose, the person in question is entitled to a proper review of whether they NOW need CHC to be commissioned, by the CCG where they have been GP registered (the rehab area, for this example) or whether they are NOW merely eligible for social care purposes or a split health and social care package – and the council where the person was ordinarily resident before the rehab, on general principles, will be the relevant authority for liaising with, UNLESS the person in question is going to make a move to ordinary accommodation somewhere of their own choice because they are not interested in living in specified accommodation. So the OLD council needs to make the decision about whether specified accommodation is needed, in most cases, if there is ultimately no CHC status awarded, and the OLD authority will need to make provision for independent advocacy.]

The guidance goes on:

Understanding of local communities may be an important consideration, so the advocacy/advocate should wherever possible be from the area where the person is resident at the time of the assessment, planning or review.

[My comment is that this only makes sense if the advocate is needed in the context of a settled placement or care arrangement out of area, not a situation where a person needs to consider acquiescing in, or other people need to do best interests decision making about, a move to one of a range of options somewhere else, somewhere other than where the person is currently settled.]

Finally, the guidance says this:

Consequences for local authorities

The local authority should have local policies to clarify the appointing of advocates:

  • from advocacy services out of their area that they may not have a direct commissioning relationship with (as it currently is with Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA));
  • for people placed out of area temporarily;
  • for people who move from one area to another following an assessment and care and support planning in which an advocate is involved (the same advocate should be involved wherever practicable).

 

[In all cases, if councils have expanded their IMCA contracts to provide for Care Act advocacy, and think that by so doing they have in some way reserved those advocates for use only by themselves, then I would have to say that I think that the commissioning advice in the Guidance would produce a system that would not be fit for purpose. A council with out of area responsibilities needs to be able to commission Care Act independent advocacy from organisations or individuals on the spot where the client is, or in the area where the client is considering a range of options and needs local insights. Anyone who has worked in social care for a long time will know that charging for services provided by one council ON BEHALF OF ANOTHER which is properly liable, is a commonplace part of the system, based on the law of agency].

Comments about other ways round this hiccup in the thinking, would be most welcome.

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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