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.
We've created the following factsheets to help you with the benefits application, Care Act assessment and follow-up process:
- Delays in receiving benefits (PDF, 52 KB) - this factsheet explains the options that may be available to you whilst you're waiting for your first payment.
- Mandatory reconsiderations (PDF, 48 KB) - this factsheet explains what to do if you wish to challenge a benefit decision.
- Reasonable adjustments (PDF, 425 KB) - this factsheet explains what changes should be made by the Job Centre and DWP for people with a learning disability who are looking to claim benefits.
- What happens next (PDF, 367 KB) - this factsheet sets out what should happen after your Care Act assessment.
- Reviews and new assessments (PDF, 219 KB) - this factsheet is for people who already receive care and support through a package of social care and what they can expect from the review and assessment process.
- Direct payments (PDF, 72 KB) - this factsheet explains how people with a learning disability and their families can receive direct payments to arrange their social care support themselves.
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.
Top tips for challenging decisions
Remember to write down dates and details of any phone calls, meetings, letters and emails about the issue, as well as writing down what social workers or others have agreed to do
It is helpful to make your letters brief and concentrate on the current problem. One or two pages, with bullet points or numbered lists is best
If you have a learning disability and you would like some help with making your complaint, an advocate may be able to help. You can find out about advocacy in your area by contacting the Learning Disability Helpline
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.
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 our online community? This is a place for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability to share experiences, advice and support.