Local authorities have a legal responsibility to make sure your needs are met. This responsibility is the same whether they arrange services for you or you arrange them yourself using direct payments.

The local authority must give you enough information to help you sort out your care now that this responsibility is yours. And the amount of money must be enough to cover the extra things involved when making the arrangements yourself. This will include covering things that may go wrong or only happen occasionally.

By law, the local authority must give you a care plan, whether your support is provided in the form of services they arrange or direct payments. For information about what should be in your care plan, see “They’ve reassessed my needs and the local authority isn't offering enough help.”

Direct payments and your care plan

If you are getting direct payments, then your care plan must also include a clear explanation of:

  • in practice, how the money in the budget can stretch to meet your ‘eligible’ needs
  • what help you can have to plan your support and recruit, employ, train and manage staff on an on-going basis
  • what hourly rate the budget will allow you to pay staff, after allowing for costs such as tax, national insurance, holiday, sickness, maternity leave and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (which have replaced Criminal Records Bureau checks).

You can complain:

  • if you don’t get a clear explanation or
  • if the money you are offered is not enough in practice to pay for the help you have been assessed as needing.

Have you been given enough money to meet your needs?

Think about the following points when deciding whether you have been offered enough money and support to meet your needs:

  • Think about how much help you receive from family, friends and charities. Sometimes this can be a positive thing, but it doesn’t work for everybody. For example, some people may not want to rely on their parents for help. Parents may also not want to be – or be able to be – carers. If you have eligible assessed needs, then you have the right to your own paid support, independent of family or friends. You can ask your local authority how much free help they have assumed you will use, and you may want to challenge this.
  • Personal budgets that have been calculated using a flat hourly rate may not be enough after allowing for costs such as tax, national insurance, holidays, sickness, maternity leave and Disclosure and Barring Service checks. If you have complex needs, you may need to pay staff more to employ the right people who will do a good job and stay working for you long term if you want them to. Check that the hourly rate used in your personal budget calculations is high enough.
  • The law says that your personal budget must be enough to get you the support you need. It needs to be realistic. So if, for example, you are unable to find anyone to pop in for half an hour each morning, lunchtime and bedtime at minimum wage levels, you may need more money.
  • There may be aspects of your support package that you are worried about managing yourself. You may want the local authority to arrange these for you. You have the right not to accept  the responsibility of a personal budget for some or all your needs. So, for example, you could ask your local authority to arrange the support for ‘pop-ins’ instead of you. You can still receive a personal budget to sort out other needs yourself. You may, for example, feel confident about arranging 4 hours of support to go out at the weekend.
  • Do you need help organising your care package? You can ask for extra money to employ someone independent to give you advice, help plan your support and manage staff. This type of support is sometimes called advocacy or brokerage. It may be ‘peer support’ from a group of other disabled people who have first-hand experience of these issues. It can be difficult to get money from the local authority for this kind of extra help, but if you can show that you need this type of support to manage your care package properly then you should get it. If you’re successful, use the money to get help from someone you trust to do a good job.
  • Has your social worker made reasonable recommendations about what support you need based on a detailed assessment? Have these recommendations been overridden by a Panel meeting? Any proposed changes to your assessment by a Panel must show how your needs will be met properly with reduced support. You can insist on seeing what the Panel considered at the meeting and the detailed reasons for their decision.

​The main point is that your personal budget must be enough to pay for the help you need. If not, the local authority has effectively cut your care package without reassessing you. This is not allowed and you can make a complaint to your local authority.

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?