Social services in Wales are lagging behind England, says Ombudsman

A COUPLE from Powys who have been caring for their severely disabled granddaughter have written to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales over their treatment by Social Services.

A report about the complaint, which dates back to 2007, has now been published.

The couple, referred to as Mr and Mrs A, had tried applying for direct payment of financial aid on behalf of their granddaughter, referred to as Miss B, rather than receiving services in the community which she could not use.

Miss B, who requires 24-hour care, had been in receipt of aid from the Independent Living Fund (ILF), a government scheme for people with severe disabilities.

Unlike direct payments (DPs), money from the ILF is not administered by local authorities, but depends on the claimant receiving support from social services to the value of a threshold sum (currently £340 per week).

The couple wrote to the Ombudsman stating that ILF payments had been cancelled when Miss B stopped attending day care services and that they had been without funding for around two months.

Telephone calls between the family and their Care Co-ordinator took place, stating the family’s desire to begin direct payments instead.

The Care Co-ordinator then contacted the ILF who suspended their additional payments accordingly.

However, it soon emerged that disabled people wishing to receive direct payments must be able to give consent themselves, under the Mental Capacity Act.

The family’s Care Co-ordinator made enquiries to the Direct Payments Office, and also with the Shire Manager.

In accordance with the updated Mental Capacity Act of April 2007, the Shire Manager stated: “The issue is whether or not the young lady concerned has the capacity to understand what a [direct payment] is and whether she would be able to form a view on this and the agreement to receive a DP.

“In the past we have taken the view that if a DP would improve an individual’s quality of life, although they would not have the capacity to understand the situation, we would allow it to go ahead. This is no longer the case.”

The ombudsman found that Powys County Council were not at fault, but that an irregularity in the law means Welsh claimants cannot access the same services as their English counterparts as present.

The report says: “The initial [direct payments] scheme was aimed at assisting those with a physical disability to have control over their care, if they wished.

“It has since been acknowledged that […] those who have a profound learning disability have been disadvantaged and effectively excluded from the scheme by this requirement.

“In recognition of this, the Health and Social Care Act 2008 made provision […] so that those service users unable to consent to DPs could be eligible.

“Regulations came in to force in England in November 2009 to enable this.

“These regulations apply to England only, and, whilst it is the intention to introduce similar legislation in Wales, this has not yet happened.

“This case highlights the need for the legislation to be updated in Wales to bring it into line [with] England.”

Mr and Mrs A continue to provide care for Miss B, supported by her aunt and once again funded through ILF payments which remain subject to support from social services to the value of a threshold sum (currently £340 per week).

The report found that Social Services did make attempts to explore other avenues in terms of funding Miss B’s care, but that Powys County Council should apologise for the delays and pay Mr and Mrs A the sum of £2000.