Shropshire Disability Network has been made aware of a challenge to Shropshire Council from a member of the public, supported by a view from Cllr Heather Kidd, which suggests that Shropshire Council is failing to follow guidelines issued by the Ombudsman, and set out under the Care Act, in relation to the payment of Top Up Fees to cover the cost of care in re care homes.
The challenge suggests that the level of fees paid by the Council under their current arrangements does not allow Shropshire residents to find a care home place without requiring a top up fee. However, the guidance we have found states that:
“if your council is contributing towards your care home fees, they’ll tell you how much they would pay for someone with your care needs. The total amount the council thinks your care should cost – including their contribution and yours – is called your personal budget. The council will need to show that at least one care home place is available which meets your care needs for that amount of money. If you’d prefer a different, more expensive home, you may still be able to move there if someone else pays the difference. This is a top-up fee.”
“The council should make sure that your personal budget is high enough for you to get the care you need according to the needs assessment they carried out. The needs assessment should include your physical care needs, and also your mental, psychological, emotional, social, religious and cultural extra costs. For example, if your needs assessment states that you should be near to your family, the council should consider covering the cost of this if it means you need a care home place in a more expensive area. Your relative shouldn’t be asked to pay a top-up fee if your personal budget wouldn’t pay for a care home to cover these needs. Instead, the council should increase your personal budget to cover the needs.” Source – Independent Age website
Of course, many people with Personal Budgets do pay top up fees, or rather, a friend or relative pays them on their behalf, because they have chosen a care home which is not one of those accepting residents at the rate agreed with the council. However, the challenge suggests that there are actually no care homes in Shropshire which meet the need for the pre-set rate offered by the council, and all care homes require a top up fee to cover the costs of care.
Shropshire Disability Network is not in a position to confirm or deny this, but recommends that, if you or someone you love, has had a needs assessment which identifies eligibility for a Personal Budget, that you ask the Council to identify to you which care home/s cover the cost of the personal budget allocated by the council without the need for top up fees being paid by you. It does not mean that you have to use that care home, but, if the council is unable to offer you a choice, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to ask that any additional (top-up) fee for the home you choose be covered in the personal budget allocated by the Council during the process of your assessment.
Please share your experience below and if we have evidence that raises a wider concern, we will, of course ask the Council to discuss this with us.