Local authorities are allowed to charge for social care if they have a fair and proper local charging policy. Many are changing their policies to bring in higher charges and to charge more people. This may mean that they start charging you for the first time even if you are on a low income.

Your local authority must consult properly and assess your finances fully before starting to charge you. Assessing your finances must include taking account of your ‘disability-related expenditure’. These are the extra costs of living that you have because of your condition or impairment. If they have not done this, you can make a complaint.

How to complain if your direct payments are not enough to pay for the help you need

By law, your direct payments must be enough to meet your assessed needs. These include all the practicalities and extra costs around employing staff. Your social worker must be able to explain how the amount you are offered can do this. Explain what will happen if you don’t get the help you need.

Remember to include all aspects of your well-being and what you need to live an independent life. It’s not just the basics of eating and personal care.

  • Will your budget affect your ability to work, get an education or take part in family life?
  • Is it enough to pay the hourly rate you need to pay to get the right quality of staff, after allowing for costs such as tax, national insurance, holiday, sickness, maternity leave and Disclosure and Barring Service checks?
  • Does it take account of potential employment issues and staff turnover, including recruitment, training and management?
  • Do you need extra money in your budget to pay someone to help you plan and manage your support package?
  • Or, do you want the local authority making the arrangements, for example with an agency? This will mean you don’t have to sort everything out yourself. You have the right to choose whether the local authority arranges your support or you get direct payments.

Your social worker may recognise your needs and agree with you about the provision you need. But their assessment may be reduced by the local authority Funding Panel.

  • Explain that your support cannot be cut without convincing evidence and detailed reasons.
  • Ask them to supply their evidence within the next 7 days.
  • Ask them to keep your current level of support going until they have properly considered your concerns.

There are complicated rules about what services local authorities can charge for and how much. Actual charges vary between local authorities.

An advice or advocacy service will be able to help you work out if you are being charged too much. If you are, then you need to complain.

How to complain if the charges you pay for social care increase

Your local authority has a legal duty to assess your financial situation before increasing the charges that you pay for your care and support. Has this assessment happened? If it has not, you can explain this. If you have had this assessment, make sure it has taken into all your extra expenses related to your condition or impairment (sometimes called ‘disability-related expenditure’). If not, you can ask for a new assessment or for the local authority to take your list of extra expenses into account.

Working out your extra expenses can be quite complicated. Get help from an adviser if you can. If you can’t speak to an adviser, you can do it yourself.

Remember to include:

  • any care you pay for yourself
  • taxis
  • travel to medical appointments
  • equipment
  • prescription charges
  • extra food costs, if you find it hard to cook or have special dietary needs
  • extra clothing costs, if you need more clothes or to get things cleaned more often than other people
  • extra heating expenses, if you are at home more than other people
  • the cost of services you cannot provide yourself, for example, cleaning, gardening, fixing things in your home.

Ask friends or family to check you haven’t forgotten anything. Find as much evidence as possible for these expenses. For example, receipts, bills or bank statements. Your local authority may ask to see this evidence.

Also check that your income and proposed charges have been calculated correctly. An adviser can help you do this.

If this doesn’t get the result you want, you can complain to the Ombudsman or get legal advice - see what options do I have now?