CASCAIDr is a specialist advice charity, launched in 2017, with a mission to try to help put right some of the not-so-good things going on in Adults’ Social Care and NHS health service allocation in this country.

It’s registered with the Charity Commission, under no. 1175911, and at Companies’ House, in England.

The charity registration means that we are entitled to collect donations which are increased by 25% GiftAid from central government – if you are a tax payer.

Even if you are a company, a charitable donation justifies a deduction from your profits before you pay Corporation Tax. We welcome donations from ALL sources, even if they don’t trigger GiftAid.

Our mission
is to help people get their full legal rights to care and support services – and in so doing, support defensible decision-making by the public sector. We do this by providing a resolution-focused and practical service in our Free Scope category of work – comprising information, advice, and legal framework expertise for free – for people who have a current public law problem concerning their access to health or social care rights.

We also help people with low cost advice services by the hour, if their issue is within what we call our secondary sphere of charitable output – so, for instance, we charge a very low cost to individuals and charities for a broader range of support, in the making of complaints, seeking reimbursement for some wrongly charged for services, ordinary residence disputes, etc.

The way we operate is through a lean online presence, working with software, and a network of advisers, but no actual employees. We have self-employed secretarial support, a volunteer Chief Executive. an unpaid Board, and masses of free help. We are operating as a charity should, with minimal expenses, so we can achieve more, for more people.

We use the money donated, or paid to us, through grants, or generated by charitable trading and through the sale of services through our trading subsidiary’s advice and training packages, to pay our caseworkers a flat rate per task/per hour, in order to access their expertise on people’s pressing health and social care framework problems. Enabling people to earn something from using their knowledge is our way of ensuring that people still see the point of learning about this crucial body of legal principle (even if they aren’t lawyers).

The idea is that most people’s problems are down to a mistake by council or NHS staff, not a deliberate intention to break the law in the Care Act or the NHS legal framework. Sometimes it’s just plain ignorance of what the Guidance says (and the Guidance has to be followed, unless there’s a very good reason why departure from it is thought to be justified – even though it doesn’t quite count as law). Sometimes it’s the culture – the state of teh public body’s budget drives assessment, as opposed to the needs. That happens to be unlawful, not because these bodies can print money – but because a duty is a duty, and even the concept of sufficiency is subject to judicial review, for approaches that are indefensible – that is, shocking to ordinary opinion, in effect, in a civilised society.

So our first round in attempting to help people with problems within the charity’s FREE scope will usually be non-adversarial – we will be letting the client know how to tell their council or NHS body that they’ve overlooked something legally relevant to the person’s rights. We give you a checklist of what SHOULD have happened, and from that list (having analysed your account of what’s happened), things that didn’t, or haven’t happened as they should, so that you can take it back to the decision-maker.

If that makes no difference, we will ramp it up a bit, with details of WHY what’s happened is really likely to be unlawful, in public law terms. If that opinion still falls on deaf ears, we will write a Pre Action Protocol Letter direct from the Charity, which will tell the public body what it needs to do to avoid an application for permission for judicial review, and how soon. That letter may be accompanied by an opinion from an independent barrister who will have already given his or her advice to the Charity for a set rate.

The Charity is going to get people that far, without the need for recourse to legal aid funding – because it’s complex and patchy in coverage – legal aid solicitors need to be authorised to offer Community Care expertise, and it’s very thin on the ground, nationwide, making it impossible for some people who are ill or disabled, to travel to access it.

If the letter before action still makes no difference, we will support the individual to put their case onto CrowdJustice’s funding platform, with a compelling write-up, so as to see if we can get members of the public interested in funding the legal challenge, and use social media to supercharge that effort, as well as lending the charity’s backing, to attract GiftAid.

The public body concerned will be able to see the person’s crowdfunded ‘pot’ progressing towards the 30 day funding target, which will be set by reference to the likely costs of a contested application for permission for judicial review – £10-12K, usually.

If the council/NHS body sees the light, after the target is met, and shifts its position so that no further action is needed, then the charity gets to keep the money. If they change their minds beforehand, anyone who’s promised to help, is let off the need to pay up on their pledged contribution.

Isn’t that fabulous?

The driving force behind this charity is Belinda Schwehr’s belief that the rule of law has to be a better foundation for identifying the extent of a person’s rights to care and support, than any rhetoric or buzzword that any political party has come up with so far – and better than personalities and the balance of raw power determining who gets what….

She  has spent 20 years specialising in this area of law, as a lawyer, an academic, and then as a trainer, before more recently moving into writing, commentating, blogging and campaigning for legal literacy and legal principles.

Her view is that without clear principles, governing the work of professional health and social work staff, we are all doomed: not a single one of us can predict which of us will NEED care, let alone be able to rely on a benign and well-informed friend or relative, if we’ve lost mental capacity.

So we may all need legally literate social workers or care planners, as well as the State’s rationally calculated funding support, and good quality providers, at some time in our unpredictable futures…