A legal expert has warned that funding panels are â€œrifeâ€ but local authorities are failing to use them in line with Care Act guidance.
Councils are misusing funding panels to make decisions about whether to authorise care packages, a legal expert has warned.
Speaking at a Legal Action Group event last week, Luke Clements, cerebra professor of law at Leeds University, claimed funding panels were now â€œrifeâ€ among local authorities butÂ are not being used in line with the Care Act guidance.
The guidance states that funding panels might be appropriate for signing off large or unique personal budget allocations and care packages, but should not be used to â€œamend planning decisions, micro-manage the planning process, or are in place purely for financial reasonsâ€.
Clements said: â€œThatâ€™s in the statutory guidance, itâ€™s binding, but nearly every local authority has one [a panel] and in many councils, everything has to go to that panel. Itâ€™s not [just] micro-management, itâ€™s everything.â€
He pointed toÂ a Local Government Ombudsman decision about Brighton and Hove councilÂ in August 2016 as evidence of concerns with councilsâ€™ use of panels.
A woman with disabilities complained to the LGO after the council refused to fund her care. A care manager assessed her as needing support to meet some of her eligible needs, especially around showering and washing her hair, but the panel rejected this recommendation.
The ombudsman questioned whether the panel was purely looking at compliance with the Care Act and cost effectiveness. She added that while it was possible that the womanâ€™s care needs could be met in other ways, this should have been done through proper care planning and in consultation with the woman, not through a decision â€œin direct contravention of the care managerâ€™s recommendation by a panel who was not involved in the assessment.â€
Clements said: â€œThis is the classic situation â€“ a social worker goes out and assesses a person as having these needs, only for the panel or care manager to say no.
â€œThe panel members are not there, they are not seeing the person, not taking in all that information, so they have no discretion to bear.â€
He added: â€œSocial workers have crazy caseloads. They are doing their best, assessing people and getting pushed back by a manager or a panel. The families come to us upset about the social worker, but when you look at the papers, it was not the social worker at all.â€
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