Carers ‘misusing’ money targeted at improving mobility of service users

    Benefits to improve care and mobility arrangements for people with
    learning difficulties are being routinely misused by carers, it is
    claimed.

    A front-line worker said she knew of people appointed to look after
    disability living allowance payments for service users who were
    then spending them inappropriately.

    “Parents or other appointees do not have to specify how they have
    spent the money,” said the woman, who has worked in the learning
    difficulty field for 22 years .

    Andrew Holman, director of advice and support organisation
    Community Living, said it was a long-standing problem.

    He said the benefits were often thrown into the family pot and
    spent on the family rather than on the individual’s care or
    mobility.

    “The system is open to abuse, it is totally unregulated and
    unchecked, and relies on the goodwill of the parent or carer to
    spend the money appropriately,” he said.

    Holman warned that often the situation prevented people with
    learning difficulties from living independently as their families
    became reliant on the extra income.

    Although the Mental Capacity Bill addresses the problem of
    financial abuses, Holman warned that it did not go far enough and
    would be difficult to regulate on the ground.

    “In principle it would be clear that the money should be spent on
    what that person wants, but one fears that in practice that will
    not be so,” he said.

    “There is no suggestion yet that this information will even get to
    these families,” he added, proposing that the bill’s code of
    practice be built into the benefits payment system to raise
    awareness.

    But a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said it would
    be inappropriate for the government to tell people how to spend
    their benefits and there were no plans to change the current
    arrangements.

    She said there were no checks as to how appointees spent the money,
    although the department would investigate complaints of
    abuse.

    Rob Greig, national director of Valuing People, said the matter was
    not on the Valuing People support team’s agenda as it had “not been
    flagged up to us as a major issue”.

    “This is the first time in my role that this has been explicitly
    raised with me as a problem.”

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