Find expert help with your social care complaint
For many people, money is the decisive factor when choosing options. Taking this kind of case to court can be very expensive. In a small number of cases the court may order you to pay the local authority’s legal costs if you lose.
So the first thing to do is to work out if you can get legal aid. This is the scheme where the government pays most or all of your legal costs for you. They will also pay the local authority’s costs if you lose. People are only eligible for legal aid if they have a low income and very few savings.
You need to be eligible for legal help to get free initial advice on what to do. A solicitor can also write a ‘letter before claim’ to your council. This is sometimes enough to get your local authority to provide the service you need.
If you are eligible for legal aid, it would be sensible to see a solicitor. They will tell you whether or not you have a good case. They can also help you decide whether to take the local authority to court or complain to the Ombudsman.
If you are not eligible for legal aid, it's harder to know what to do. Some people pay for advice, but this may not be realistic for many people who have a problem with their support package. The best thing if you cannot afford legal advice is to get advice from one of the organisations listed in further help.
Some people pay for a solicitor to threaten the local authority with court proceedings. This is because it sometimes results in the local authority backing down. If you are lucky, you may be able to find a solicitor who will do this for you for free. Others may agree to do it for a set fee.
Whatever you decide to do, do it as soon as possible. It will be easier for the local authority to change its decision if not much time has gone by. Also there is a 3-month limit for taking cases like this to court, and in many cases courts will expect people to act much quicker than that and may dismiss the case for being too late even if it is within the 3 months. In very rare cases the court may extend this time limit, but only where it was not possible to take action sooner.
Organisations that can provide advice on social care
- Contact gives advice, information and support for families of disabled children.
- Disability Law Service is a national charity that gives free legal advice about community care and employment discrimination to disabled people, their families and carers.
- Disability Rights UK provides information on social care funding, direct payments and personal budgets.
- Mencap supports people with learning disability to live the life they choose.
- National Autistic Society gives advice and information about community care problems for people affected by autism.
Other sources of help
Your local advice agency, Citizens Advice Bureau, Law Centre, Age UK (if you are older) or other charity may also be able to help you. Use find a legal adviser to find agencies near you. Select 'Charity or government-funded organisation'. You are looking for organisations that say 'Community care' in the blue box. See if you are likely to get legal aid.
Sources of social care information