Things can go wrong in the social care system; something might happen that you're not happy about or that you don't think is right.

Common problems include:

  • assessments that don’t accurately reflect the needs of the person
  • care and support plans that don’t meet all eligible needs  
  • personal budgets that are not enough to cover the costs of the support needed, or that are cut
  • charges that are too much to afford.

Whilst it can be very stressful and worrying if something does go wrong, there are ways you can challenge all of these things.

Whether your personal budget has been cut or it is not enough to cover the costs of the support you need, there are ways you can challenge these decisions.

Challenging a decision

If something has gone wrong and you want to challenge a decision, try the following steps:

1. Complain to the local authority by writing a letter

Not sure what to say? Irwin Mitchell Solicitors have created this letter template for anyone to use for free. You should explain in your letter how the decision will affect you and why you don't think it's right. You can also ask for an explanation of how the decision has been made. More advice about writing your letter is provided by the Citizens Advice website. You should send your letter to the Director of Adults Services at your local authority.

2. Complain to the Local Government Ombudsman

If you are not happy with the response to your complaint, you can then complain to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). The LGO investigates complaints where the council may have made the decision in the wrong way. They can recommend what the council can do to make up for their decision. You can find more information about this on the LGO website.

3. Ask a solicitor for help

A solicitor can tell you if a judicial review may be possible. A judicial review is the way that people can challenge the lawfulness of a decision made by a public body such as a local authority. A judge will look at how the decision was made. More information about judicial reviews. To find a local solicitor who can help with social care issues, search the justice website and tick the Community Care box. Find out if you qualify for legal aid to fund your use of a solicitor on the gov.uk website.

4. Contact your MP to alert them to the problem you are having

Your MP has an interest in how the local authority enacts UK government laws such as the Care Act, and can intervene on your behalf as his or her constituent. You can find your MP’s contact details on the Parliament website.

Challenging decisions - a guide for families

We have a guide for families which helps to explain what to do when challenging decisions, which was developed with Ambitious About Autism and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation in partnership with Irwin Mitchell.

Download the guide

Top tips for challenging decisions

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

We've created the following FAQ to help answer some of the questions you might have about challenging social care decisions.

Click the question below to reveal the answer.

What if I am paying too much towards my care and support?

If you cannot afford the charges you are asked to pay, the first thing you should do is send the council a breakdown of your finances showing that your disability expenses are as high as their disability benefits and that you have no extra income – and that means you cannot afford the charges you are being asked to pay.

If this does not change the council’s decision, the council should then tell you how to challenge it. Each local authority has a different complaints procedure and this procedure should be made clear to anyone who wants to complain.

Councils can take you to court if you refuse to pay charges. If the council says it is considering taking you to court, you should seek legal advice immediately. Find sources of legal support.  

A local service is being cut – what can I do?

Unfortunately lots of social care services – like day centres and short breaks, or respite, centres – are being closed.

If a social care service is being cut or something is happening locally that affects lots of people, you can campaign to stop this.

Find out how to campaign locally – get in touch with our regional Campaigns Officers for advice and support on how to campaign in your area.

Learn about campaigning locally

How to get the support you need

Contact the Learning Disability Helpline, our advice and support line, for guidance and information about what support we can offer you.

Or why not take a look at FamilyHub? This is our online community for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability, and is a place for sharing experiences, advice and support.

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