Deciding on an individual’s personal budget is a key stage of the care and support planning process, as it sets out the amount of money that is required to provide services to meet agreed needs.
The decision about how much funding is going to be allocated by the local authority is of profound significance for the adult with care and support needs and/or the carer, and in some cases individuals will be dissatisfied with the decision because they believe the personal budget is not enough. The social worker responsible for the care and support plan may also be dissatisfied, because they agree that the personal budget is not enough – but they’ve been overruled.
There is a clear duty set out in the statutory guidance to the Care Act 2014 that a personal budget “must always be an amount sufficient” to meet needs. However, the statutory guidance doesn’t define sufficiency. This is because it is a matter for professional social work judgment, and for this reason there is no significant case law and neither are there any significant conclusions from ombudsman cases, other than to clarify that reasons have to be given for professional judgments.
There is increasing concern that some local decision-making bodies (sometimes called funding panels) are overruling the professional judgments of social workers in ways that are flouting the statutory guidance, resulting in unethical social work practice.
What local authorities cannot do is insist that a personal budget be reduced because it “costs too much” or “cannot be afforded”. However, a budget holder (as a member of a funding panel or otherwise) may have the professional competence to challenge any of the professional judgments that underpin the personal budget, which may have the effect of reducing the amount. Social workers can mitigate against being inappropriately overruled if they can master a legally literate argument.
At Community Care Live London at 11.30am on 26 September, Pete Feldon, independent social work trainer, will be speaking alongside Jonathan Auburn, barrister at 11KBW, about working with funding panels and how social workers can defend their proposed care plan when overruled by a panel.
To reserve your place at this session, register for Community Care Live and select this legal learning session. There is a fee of £29 plus VAT for each legal learning session you attend. The vast majority of sessions at Community Care Live remain free to attend.