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Analysis of concerns of Human Rights Watch – with CASCAIDr comments on top

Unmet Needs: Improper Social Care Assessments for Older People in England 

Headline report conclusions

“Older people in England are at risk of not getting adequate assistance to live independent, dignified lives due to uneven assessments for social services.”

Some said that assessors appeared not even to understand their disabilities and support needs. In other cases, before beginning an assessment, assessors announced that services would be cut, regardless of an individual’s actual need.

And in some cases services were denied or cut significantly, affecting older people’s health and wellbeing.

CASCAIDr’s comment: seeing these as indications of ‘improper’ assessments is an interesting approach, when any of the above are potentially unlawful assessments, in terms of current and perfectly clear public law and care law principles!

Methodology
Human Rights Watch (HRW) spoke with 27 older people and 20 family carers in 11 LAs: Tower Hamlets, Cumbria, Bournemouth, North Yorkshire, Hertfordshire, South Derbyshire, Essex, Barking and Dagenham, Salford, Dorset, and Surrey.

HRW also interviewed 51 representatives of charities, as well as lawyers, service providers, academics, policy experts, staff from the NHS, CCGs and current and former LA staff.

They also conducted group interviews arranged by partner organisations in supported housing accommodations and community centres in East London, Bournemouth and Poole.

HRW sent letters to the 11 LAs, the DHSC and the MHCLG requesting answers to questions related to the findings. Only three LAs responded: Dorset CC, North Yorkshire CC, and the LB of Barking & Dagenham (see Annex 1 to the report). The other LAs and the ministries did not respond.

Problems with Social Care Assessments

The report contains excerpts of some of the interviews conducted, including the headline quote:
‘[They] just came in with an agenda of cutting my 15 hours per week to 6.5. They announced it. They told me ‘We are not there to give you more, but we are going to cut it.’ They had worked out that that was what I needed [before they arrived].’

Other interviews highlighted what family members saw as unrepresentative assessments, and the difficulty they had experienced in appealing against them.

CASCAIDr’s comment: The idea that one can actually achieve more savings by having staff prepare the clients for the worst, when so doing itself suggest widespread and ‘corporate’ fettering of assessment and care planning judgement, from above, should be a matter of shame for the sector, and it IS of legal significance in public law terms.

Suspension of Services During Appeals

This section details how some people lost services once they had filed an appeal, how the Care Act is silent on the suspensive effect of an appeal, how two LAs stated they have the discretion to maintain services pending appeals, and how the DHSC is currently developing a process for streamlining appeals, to be introduced by April 2020.

CASCAIDr’s comment: Any social care lawyer could have told them that the fact of a complaint or a dispute is no defence to the duty to meet assessed eligible unmet needs.


Lack of External Oversight of Social Care Assessments


This section sets out how there is currently a lack of sufficient oversight and monitoring of assessments to ensure consistent accuracy and objectivity. Three LAs (as above) responded to HRW’s enquiries on monitoring needs assessments and indicated processes for reviewing social care needs assessments are conducted within each council’s own structures, and they were not aware of any systematic independent monitoring or monitoring of assessments by the central government.

CASCAIDr’s comment: There is none, and it is not an accident. There is only the Monitoring Officer’s role, largely unheard of by those who should know about it, judicial review, which usually needs a lawyer and legal aid and the capacity of the law firm to handle the work – OR paragraph 10.86 of the Guidance which requires a proper management review before giving upon securing agreement and just saying ‘Complain or bring legal proceedings if you don’t like it.’ No wonder it’s taking ages to incorporate adult social care into the tribunal system in this country. It would cause mayhem!

International Legal Standards

The report refers to The Right to Health and to Family and Private Life and The Right to Live Independently in the Community. It includes a reference to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities review of the UK in October 2017.

CASCAIDr’s comment: Brexit Fever and widespread disdain for the ECJ and ECtHR’s influence on our legal system does not bode well for any further incorporation of THOSE principles into domestic law, do they? Just try contending that you should be funded at home, when a care home is cheaper, without referring to human rights, is all we can say, to all those who see no point in the Convention or the UK’s own Human Rights Act.

Report recommendations (in full):

To the UK’s Government

• Ensure that older people have access to the services they need to realize their rights to live independently in their communities with their rights to health and private and family life protected.

• Establish a mechanism to monitor and evaluate social care needs assessments and the staff who conduct them to ensure consistency and equality nationally.

• Ratify the Council of Europe’s Revised European Social Charter.

To the UK Parliament

• The Health and Social Care Committee and the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee of the House of Commons should examine the impact of austerity measures on local authority social care provision under the Care Act 2014.

To the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

• Review successful appeals against initial social care needs assessments and collect data about the reasons assessments were identified as problematic; data should consider the age, gender, ethnicity, location, and place of residence of those assessed as well as the types of shortcomings in initial assessments; use this information to make corrections and improvements in the system with a goal of ensuring provision of services to which people are entitled and reducing the number of times individuals must appeal in order to secure social care services.

• Direct local authorities to establish and document clearly the specific reasons to justify services being safely reduced or eliminated pending an individual’s appeal of an initial social care assessment and in all cases to strongly consider continuation of services pending appeals.

To the Department of Health and Social Care

• Include, in the reform of social care appeals processes planned for 2020, the suspensive effect of appeals.

• Execute a plan for the long-term stability and sustainability of the social care system in England to ensure that the human rights of older people are fully respected.

To Local Government authorities

• Ensure the accuracy of needs assessments, including when there are not enough resources locally to meet those needs.

• Document clearly the specific reasons to justify services being safely reduced or eliminated pending an individual’s appeal of an initial social care assessment and in all cases to strongly consider continuation of services pending appeals.

• Ensure that individuals are fully informed of their rights and available options to appeal social care assessment decisions and provide reasonable accommodations to individuals who may require assistance in the appeals process.

CASCAIDr’s comment: does anyone reading this catalogue of woes have any doubts as to the need for this charity, or wonder why we set it up?  

Please donate to our cause, if you see the point of legal rights, here!

Public law principles make all of the above essentials  for good  governance and legality.

They should already by embedded, after 20 years of community care judicial reviews, in the hearts and minds of those supposed to be leading the sector forwards – not back!


Based on a summary written by Adam Webb, and used with permission – thanks Adam

mradamwebb@gmail.com

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CASCAIDr’s first year of operation

So please donate to keep us going into a 2nd year and beyond, by clicking on:
DONATE to CASCAIDr

How many of CASCAIDr’s first year’s 200 or so clients were

So, please donate to keep us going into a 2nd year and beyond, by clicking on: DONATE to CASCAIDr

What have been the OUTCOMES, for some of CASCAIDr’s most successful clients?

Threatened cuts to people’s packages, services or budgets, have been cancelled or reduced

“MR and SN have nominated your organisation for a Gold #IAMchallengingbehaviour Star Award as you are continually challenging the behaviour of those people and systems that stop people getting a good life.”

Adequate, practicable budgets have been secured (as opposed to arbitrary or blatantly cost-capped budgets) for a person’s own use in a person’s own home

“The reality is that we did not even have to concede any ground!  We are still pinching ourselves to check whether we are not in fact dreaming that this actually happened! For this, we must again wholeheartedly thank you for your support and guidance throughout!”

People have been able to access or enforce proper processes, such as professionally competent assessments, and paperwork including written reasons, after we’d got involved

 “I just had a call from a delightful and sincere sounding lady from Adult Social Care. She is going to speak to the learning difficulties side of social services to see which team should do a new assessment, or if it should be a collaborative affair with the CMHT. She is also arranging a visit from an occupational therapist. I am cautiously optimistic. Thank you both for your continued support. I am so grateful.”

Necessary, wanted and suitable care home placements have been commissioned, when councils had first said ‘We don’t place people in care homes, ever’ – or ‘not in THAT company’s care homes’

 “Just had the call we’ve been hoping for, J has got the funding for [the preferred provider]! Thank you so much for your input, we are thrilled.”

Care Plans that had never been written up before, have been formalised so that people can see what they’re regarded as needing, and can check the cost assumptions

“My Parents and I have read your email and both attachments thank you – they are fantastically well written. I will go to a bank this week and open a bank account in readiness for a finalised budget and plan”. 

Two people were saved from being removed from care homes after living there for over 15 years and 33 years respectively

“They’ve withdrawn the notice and agreed to follow due process. Mrs X is over the moon and so grateful. She would have had no chance at this time of year of finding someone with availability for legal aid work”.

The proper use of the MCA has been forced into people’s Care Act processes where it had inappropriately been left out, so that their needs and human rights have been properly taken into account

“You are a huge hit with K’s mum, and K seems much happier now; in no small way due to the work we have done with you, as we suspect it has helped [the provider] to really think about the situation.”  

Ordinary residence disputes have been magically managed away and the right council has paid up

 “ I explained everything (almost) that you went through with me yesterday about why the way we’d been manoeuvred into taking over the out of area emergency placement, when X council made the contract, and T is incapacitated and J has no status regarding his funds, was unlawful. A new social worker has now been appointed.”

Top-ups for care home rooms, above the council’s offered budget, that had been said to be inevitable, have been cancelled and refunded or the out of area rate taken as the guide price

“I am absolutely ecstatic myself and cannot wait to tell Mum.  It has made me appreciate that we are in a privileged position to have had your help and that for many families this outcome would not have happened.”

Direct payments have been increased or not reduced, and some disputes about misuse or non-use or going back to a directly commissioned package, have been resolved

 “Thank you for the good work that you do with the charity. You have achieved everything you predicted for my brother and for us, as defectors from direct payment difficulties, and compensation on top -we are really grateful.”

People have been found to necessitate care by their own relatives in the same household, and permission has been granted or left in place

 “Thank you for the immediate response and honesty…X has been amazing and I totally understand the position he is in, and truly appreciate the help given in difficult circumstances.”

Care charges have been reduced, by reference to disability-related expenditure evidence, and at least one refund was secured

“..my financial resources will be severely stretched,
for the rest of my life, but I do so appreciate all you do for me.”

Carers have been awarded rationally sufficient budgets for themselves so as to sustain caring –or replacement care has been added to the service user’s package, after carers could stand no more

“With the advice you have provided so far, I feel more confident.  I will deal with this matter on my own now. I would like to say a huge thank you for everything you have done for my mum, and also myself, I have learned so very much from CASCAIDr’s work.” 

People have been supported to challenge CCGs’ Continuing Health Care decisions, and have either succeeded, or got a split package – and some have even got money back – in one case £50K

“The retrospective is awarded from Feb 2014… I’m pleased and very grateful for all your help getting to this point.”

CCGs have been threatened with judicial review for cost-capping and have ended up preparing quasi-Care Act care plans for commissioning an appropriate service and operating DoLS properly

 “Thank you to you and your case worker. I have now gone through the letter and have a few comments and tweaks maybe for your consideration. An excellent letter. I do not know what their defence(s) could be, given all their failures.”

One severely disabled person has been assisted to secure housing from the Housing Authority, in co-operation with service provision from social care, despite also having a history of substance misuse, and assumed reluctance to engage

“My bosses are on board with all this, and our funders also see the importance of this for both this service user and, of course, the potential for other cases to benefit from what we’re learning.”  

People have been assisted to selfprotect, against councils using the Court of Protection as a threat, to deter them from involvement in decision-making or from holding the council to proper account under public law and the Care Act

I’ll paraphrase, but what you said would happen, did happen within a few minutes of LA’s solicitor’s opening comments, the Judge turned on her and said ‘Stop right now! Stop where you’re going right now! I’m not having it! I’m not going to approve your draft orders. We’re all here to decide what’s best for Mr X’s support and it’s entirely proper that Mr Y is included in these decisions. I suggest you speak to your clients and come up with another plan because I’m not having it.’ We were so relieved.”

Complaints have been won and compensation recommendations secured, from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

 “Thanks for all your help. I’m sure we wouldn’t have got the LGO decision without it.”

Providers from the private, public and third sectors have been assisted to stand up for their clients’ rights, and not just their own fees difficulties

“CASCAIDr’s support for our management’s thinking, in relation to what had seemed like an ultimatum from the council, has really helped turned things around for our charity.”

Independent supervision of a fresh assessment after a successful LGO complaint has been provided to a local authority

 “Thank you – that is really useful and helps us frame some of the points in your response to the Assessment and Carers Assessment for us to use in future training and guidance. I really appreciate this additional comment.”

Many more people now know what the local authority’s Monitoring Officer actually has to do, as the statutory officer responsible for governance, with a referral of alleged illegality.

So, PLEASE donate to keep us going into a 2nd year and beyond, and supporting our planned formal Litigation Strategy and our first residential Bootcamp for new Caseworkers in the Spring – by clicking on: DONATE to CASCAIDr

Finally, what sort of matters has CASCAIDr had to try to signpost to other sources of help, as completely out of our scope?

CASCAIDr specialises in public law matters for clients in the health and social care sector, from age 16+ – so we’ve had to signpost away matters to do with children, special education, safeguarding issues, adoption, DWP benefits matters, a negligence claim, a neighbours’ dispute – but not before taking the time to look at the problem. Please do look at our home page before getting in touch, as it all helps to keep us viable!

So, if you’ve got this far, PLEASE donate – to keep us going into a 2nd year and beyond, by clicking on: DONATE to CASCAIDr

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A section 117 client’s services were restored after our involvement

…They hadn’t received the letter at that point, so I gave them a copy to read. They left, after almost 2 hours, agreeing to reinstate J’s support after just leaving it for 3 months

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A trainee social worker uses the law for her own Mum’s interests in getting out of ‘respite’ care to go back home

“The support you have provided has been fantastic, regardless of the outcome. I do not believe I would have even been able to get this meeting arranged and I have learned so much.”

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An elderly person’s family is supported to prevent her being moved back home against all professional advice

Many thanks. We managed to persuade them to change their minds ! The various letters from the doctor and mental health made a huge difference, and it was very helpful to have an understanding of the legal background. 

I will be passing your details to other individuals/complementary organisations who I think would really benefit from knowing about your work

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The LGO is persuaded to change a draft report after a complex complaint…

“Clearly [the LGO] has changed the report significantly as a result of the previous feedback. Looks pretty much like we have everything significant found in our favour. Thanks for all your help.”

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Charity supported to cope with demands from a CCG and LA for re-configuration

“The meetings with the CCG and LA went well, and the fees are under renegotiation – they have accepted many of the proposals you suggested we put forward, and we are now down to discussing the last few points! So far so good…thanks for all your help!”

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Top-up Tricky-ness?

CASCAIDr has assisted a woman who was told to move her mother by the end of the week, without any assessment of the impact, once her capital depleted, if there was no top-up, to flag up 11 legal reasons why that was simply indefensible. The council is dealing with the matter, apparently, and the private rate being paid in the meantime will have to be reimbursed.

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Blind man sees the light at the end of the charging tunnel …

After grinding away for over 18 months, after CASCAIDr advisers spotted that the Disability Related Expenditure part of the financial assessment was flawed, £1500 of so-called charging debt has been written off, implicitly acknowledging that the man’s spend on technological aids was something that had to be allowed for.

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Indefensible proposed cuts stopped in their tracks

Under the threat of Judicial Review, on which CASCAIDr assisted, a Council has now agreed to complete a full care and needs assessment of x’s needs, produce a care plan, not make any reductions to her care package pending completion of both, and carry out a review before Xmas….

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