Hampshire Adult Services recently decided to change its charging policy, particularly for Direct Payments users who employed their own personal assistants. Until April 2006, Direct Payments users in Hampshire had the choice as to how they would be charged. Scheme A paid users a flat hourly rate net of a flat charge that was the same for all users. Therefore no financial assessment was required. Scheme B primarily used by users who wanted to contract with an agency, paid users a flexible hourly rate, normally related to the cost of the agency. Users of Scheme B were required to have a financial assessment.
Despite considerable resistance from users and carers, Hampshire Adult Services decided that they would effectively abolish Scheme A thus forcing users to all agree to a financial assessment. Users could obviously still use Scheme B to employ personal assistants and / or use an agency.
Hampshire Adult Services further complicated matters by adopting some changes to their charging policy in July 2006 and other changes would be made in January 2007. It was initially hoped that the Hampshire Financial Assessment and Benefits (FAB) team would have completed all the financial assessments for existing Direct Payments users by September 2006. However it is thought that only about 25% of financial assessments up to November 2006 have been completed.
Given the difficult history and nature of the charging policy, it was almost inevitable that there would be some complaints however the volume and nature of complaints, received by HCIL, HCODP, SCIL and others is exceptional. These range from extreme annoyance, anger through to enraged distress. No one like the policy but current complaints are about the practice, in particular the FAB team, and the process.
In light of these complaints, HCIL has written to Hampshire Adult Services raising the following points:
HCIL question the validity of a prescribed list of disability related expenditure and allowable costs.
HCIL question the abrupt nature of the cessation of payments; that is ‘with immediate effect’.
Two issues arise: Is it fair that some people have already had their payments cut whilst others have yet to be assessed? Would it not be more equitable if the result of all financial assessments took effect from a single given date, for example 1st January 2007?
Further, the financial assessment of some direct payments users can result in very changed financial circumstances that could take time to accommodate, given the sums of expenditure possibly involved and existing employment contracts with staff. No consideration appears to have been given to the possible consequent alarm and hardship caused by ‘immediate cessation’ of financial support. Surely a two month notice period is the very least one could reasonably expected.
There is no formal opportunity or mechanism for social services to learn what clients feel about the process as the FAB team are part of the County Treasurer’s Department and not Adult Services.
In conclusion, HCIL are requesting that when people are contacted to arrange a visit from a FAB Officer the letter should include a copy of any previous assessment and the option of receiving:
A copy of SAS 10 indicating that this is the basis of the assessment
A copy of ‘allowable costs ‘
A name and phone number clients can talk to about an assessment
The letter confirming the visit should state that the FAB list of disability related expenses and allowable costs are only indicative and not exhaustive. Indeed any claim of disability related cost (by definition as per Fairer Charging) will be considered especially if supported by confirming evidence.
After the assessment a copy of the completed assessment form SAS 10 is sent to the client.
HCIL ask that measures are implemented to ensure that clients comments and responses inform social services policy and practice. HCIL are also asking Hampshire Adult Services to reconsider their present implementation policy and make allowances to accommodate concern for parity of treatment and giving time to make changes
SCIL fully supports HCIL’s efforts to ensure that the charging policy is implementated in a fair and equitable way and that Direct Payments users are provided with all the necessary information needed before, during and after the financial assessment.
If you have not yet had a financial assessment, we strongly advise you to speak to your Direct Payments Support Worker at SCIL who can provide you with useful information in order for you to prepare effectively beforehand. They can be contacted on 023 8033 0982 or email email@example.com