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    Fraud just got Personal


     8th  February 2014

  

     If you are a carer of a severely disabled person, you might recognise this story.

    I am the unpaid carer of a severely disabled young man. In 2010 my son was offered a personal budget for the first time. I have struggled and struggled for the past three years to get the Personal budget to work - with little help from Social services I have become an employer for the first time, I have had to deal with employment disputes, payrolls, insurances all sorts of things that I never thought I would have to deal with as a private individual.

    However, in 2012 I realised that one of the reasons things were "going wrong" was because Social Services kept blocking approval for the spending of the money that had been allocated in the Personal budget. They kept saying "there's no money left" which was absurd as the budget was more than ample to accommodate the things that my son needed.

    The way Personal budgets are worked are actually relatively simple.

    If you are a severely disabled person with CRITICAL NEEDS you will undergo a care assessment by a Social Worker. This determines exactly how much care support you need. Carers and family members can inform on this assessment to ensure that needs are appropriately recorded. You are then invited to outline a 'wish list of activities" if you had the money, these are the things you would spend it on. This can be for ANYTHING to do with social care but NOT medical needs, food and drink or any illegal activity (well of course!). Other than that - anything goes.

    This is what makes a personal budget "personal". Before, if you were severely disabled, you were collected in a mini-bus and taken to a day centre where activities were organised for you to participate in. Now this is great for many people but for a lot of people this can be seen as a bit restrictive, and in some cases patronising and if you are a young disabled person - who wants to be "lumped" with older disabled people?

    So, the Cameron Government decided to close the day centres. Instead, the money spent providing transport and day centres would be put into a central fund and Councils would then be able to 'give' the money they WOULD have spent running that kind of social care directly to the people to use the way they want to use it, for the things they actually want to do.

    This is what a personal budget is.

    You decide what you want to do if you had the money to do it. For some people this might be employing a Personal assistant to help them get out and about or do things around the home, for others it might be used to pay for a course in college. Some people use it to go horse riding or to pursue hobbies like gardening. It is for whatever you want to use it for to make your life more SOCIAL.

    So, you have your care assessment. You decide what you want to do. The Social Worker then decides how much that will all cost and this is all set down in a LEGAL DOCUMENT called a Care Plan. The budget has to be included in the Care Plan.

    Then, the usual way of administering the budget is that the Yearly total is divided into monthly awards and paid to an administrating management company - usually a local charity. From their bank account, they then pay invoices, pay roll etc. you submit to them approved for payment.

    If for any reason you do not use all your budget in a year, then at the end of that year the budget is reviewed, and the excess money is then 'clawed back" by the council to be 'recycled' the next year.

    Once the budget has been assigned it is YOUR money. Social Services cannot block payment of your budget and noone should be able to access your budget without your express approval.

    The management company should issue you with regular statements stating exactly HOW MUCH you have

    • Coming in from the council each month
    • What monies have gone out and who they have been paid to

     What money is left in the budget.

    This is basic good practice.

    If you do not get these statements and if you cannot account for ALL the money that is going out of the budget, not only will Social Services hold you liable for the loss, but they might take away your right to a personal budget, allege fraud and pursue an investigation against you and in some very sad cases for carers of severely disabled children, face losing the care of those children altogether.

    However, you never get to actually HAVE any money - the money is paid to the management company directly from the Council!

    What I have discovered is that many people with personal budgets are being told that there is "no money left' to pay for the things they need and their management companies are not producing the statements to enable disabled people or their carers to track the payments properly. Care support is blocked, invoices go unpaid, and activities are refused.

    Where is the money going?

    You cannot complain - Social Services seem very reluctant to investigate, and often refuse to take complaints. If you do not have a complaint accepted by the Council you cannot go to the Local Government Ombudsman. You cannot get legal aid for this matter because this is deemed a "Civil Law" matter which, being on a benefit income you cannot get legal aid for any more.

    You are left in a rapidly decreasing spiral of frustration, neglect and downright danger from prosecution.

    Remember, if you do not spend all the money in a given year, it is then 'clawed" back to be 'recycled". On paper it LOOKS like you have had this sum of money to spend on care, courses and activites. In reality, you are getting a fraction of that amount. But because the Care Plan is a legal document and once signed and the budget allocated cannot be changed without another review - it is YOUR money for you for your disabilities and noone should be able to take it away!

    So are councils "giving budgets" with one hand then "taking it away? with the other? Submitting the accounts to the Government to get MORE money? Rinse, repeat the cycle. What is happening?

I have had to deal with this very same issue in my son's care.

    Well, it has taken two weeks and some 8 hours of phone calls - a lot of work by all involved - but I finally spoke to the National Fraud Agency yesterday and it has now been agreed that some £30,000 has gone "missing" and that there are indeed MAJOR questions to answer.

    

    The National Fraud Agency is a new way of investigating Fraud in this UK set up under this Government. Initially, they declined to take my complaint, suggesting this was "merely a civil complaint" but having taken my statement and looking at the evidence I have provided so far they have now decided that it is a case of Corruption and has been sent to a specialist team in London for Investigation.

    They are going to decide if it is Corruption (as it involves SS and quite frankly the NFA were quite alarmed by the reaction of the Police when I tried to report the crime), or if it is Fraud. Either way, I will be getting a CRIME NUMBER. and this WILL be investigated now.

    This is excellent news for both my son and myself.

    This means that I can now go to the Charities Commission and get them to investigate also, and I have been referred to Victim Support, which potentially means that I can claim compensation for the distress of the past four years.

    Now, this is the good bit.

    I KNOW I am not alone. I know that there are many many people out there who are suffering with the same problems with their personal budgets and local authorities.

    The National Fraud Agency want to hear from YOU.

    I know that at least FOUR of my FB friends are having similar problems. That is 1% of my friends list. Carers UK says that there are £6.5 MILLION carers in the UK. If 1% of ALL carers are facing the same problems then this means that there are over 60,000 carers in the UK who are facing the same problems.

    This accounts for MILLIONS of £££s being "lost" and the consequences for our carees is immeasurable. I KNOW that there have been deaths because of this.


    We have long said that there is no one we can complain to. Social Services won't investigate, the Local Ombudsman won't investigate, we can't get legal aid and so on and so on.

    Well NOW there is.

    You need to ring the National Fraud Agency - Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040

    You need to make a complaint of FRAUD and corruption.

    When you make the complaint you should ask for your complaint to be copied for the attention of Clare Farrell in the Edinburgh Office. Clare is the lady who is dealing with MY case and she is now very aware of Personal budgets and Personalisation.

    You will be given a CRIME No. You are also able to refer yourself to Victim support. This will enable you to a) get counselling and support and b) potentially get compensation.

    Victim support can be contacted on 0845 303 0900

    Get calling and don't forget to CC Clare Farrell in the complaint?

    Do let me know via email if you complain? There are further steps we can take once we get crime numbers!

    

    Written by Tisme

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