A council failed to adequately take into account a man’s circumstances in deciding not to disregard the costs of a holiday carer from his financial assessment. The decision meant that he could not go on holiday and the matter was referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who asked Northumberland council to review its decision after finding that it had caused the individual an injustice as a result of its “inflexible approach”.
While the watchdog said it could not tell the council what to consider, it judged Northumberland was wrong to decide it could not include holiday travel and accommodation costs for a carer because it was not an eligible need.
What the law and guidance says:
The Care and Support (Charging and Assessment of Resources) Regulations 2014 state that, where a council takes account of any disability benefits a person receives as income during a financial assessment, it should disregard any disability-related expenditure (DRE) the person incurs. The regulations say that DRE includes payments for community alarms, privately-arranged care services that the person requires and any specialist items needed to meet the adult’s disability.
The Care Act statutory guidance expands on this to give a non-exhaustive list of such specialist items, which includes buying, maintaining or repairing disability-related equipment, above-average heating costs, domestic help or cleaning, transport costs or any expenditure related to special dietary needs. It stresses that DRE must be “necessary”, in order to meet any needs not being met by the local authority, but also that “any reasonable additional costs directly related to a person’s disability should be included”.
It adds, “While the person’s care plan may be a good starting point for considering what is necessary DRE, authorities should be flexible and not limit it to what is necessary for care and support.”