Council's usual costs for residential care

G Banks made this Freedom of Information request to Shropshire Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Shropshire Council,

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I would like further details of the following:

- on what date was the 'usual' cost (or standard rate) Shropshire Council will pay for residential care last increased

- how many individuals in Shropshire during 2010-11 had the full cost of their care paid for by Shropshire Council despite that amount being higher than the 'usual cost'

- where there is no available residential care placement at the Council's 'usual' cost does the Council ask for a third party contribution?

- of the 137 residential care placements within Shropshire where a third party currently pays a top-up fee how many are in Coverage Care residential care homes?

- of the 201 individuals in Shropshire who have the full cost of their care paid for by Shropshire Council despite that amount being higher than the 'usual cost', how many are in Coverage Care residential care homes?

- how many of the top-up fees paid through a third party for residential care were or have been unlawful, (that is, where the Council has asked for a third party contribution without first carrying out a community care assessment and risk assessment to identify whether need can be met at the Council’s 'usual' cost at another home and it would be safe to move the service user) due to the "historic problem" with the Council's assessment process, prior to the review process to re-examine all funding decisions following a recent Ombudsman's decision?

- how many unlawful top-up fees have been identified since that review process started?

- how many of the unlawful cases are or were at Coverage Care residential care homes

- what is the total sum that has been overpaid by relatives in unlawful third party contributions so far, and how has this been refunded to them?

- how long has the policy ("historic problem") been in place whereby the Council asked for a third party contribution without first carrying out a community care assessment and risk assessment to identify whether need can be met at the Council’s 'usual' cost at another home and it would be safe to move the service user?

- what is the process by which an unlawful top-up becomes lawful?

- when does the Council plan to carry out the Ombudsman's recommendation of the publication of notices in all commissioned care homes informing service users of a potential problem with the Council’s third party contribution assessment process and inviting any service users who consider that they have a related problem to contact the Council?

Yours faithfully,

G Banks

Shropshire Council

Dear Mr Banks

Re: Information Request - Reference Number: 2011110090

Thank you for your request for information received on 30 November 2011.
 We are currently processing your request in accordance with the relevant
legislation and will respond to you within 20 working days.

You have requested details regarding adult social care charges as outlined
in the letter of request.
(Please note this may be a summary of your request and full details, as
outlined in the request, will be sent to the team providing the
information)

If you feel the information is inaccurate or requires amendment, please
notify us as soon as possible using the contact details provided below.  

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team
Shropshire Council
Shirehall
Abbey Foregate
SHREWSBURY
SY2 6ND

Tel:                  01743 252179 or 252774
Email:             [Shropshire Council request email]
Web:               www.shropshire.gov.uk/foi.nsf

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Shropshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Banks

Further to your Freedom of Information request which we received on 30
November 2011, please find our response attached.

We trust that this answers your request satisfactorily.  

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team
Shropshire Council
Shirehall
Abbey Foregate
SHREWSBURY
SY2 6ND

Tel:                  01743 252179
Email:             [Shropshire Council request email]
Web:               www.shropshire.gov.uk/foi.nsf

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Dear Shropshire Council,

Thank you for your response to my request.

In response to my question:

"3. Where there is no available residential care placement at the Council's 'usual' cost does the Council ask for a third party contribution?"

you say

"If there is no available placement within a care home that an individual
has self-funded then the council will complete a risk assessment to
consider the potential of moving the person to another care home which has an available placement at council rates. If there is an available placement and the person by virtue of the risk assessment is deemed to be able to move then the council would seek to move the person."

This does not answer the question "where there is no available residential care placement at the Council's 'usual' cost does the Council ask for a third party contribution?"

I can only conclude therefore that you are still asking for a third party contribution despite the fact that there is no placement available at the Council's 'usual' cost, which is unlawful.

Furthermore, in answer to my question

"7. How many unlawful top-up fees have been identified since that review process started?"

Your response "The review process agreed by the council with the LGO has recently stated that no unlawful top-ups have been identified to date. As you are aware the LGO has agreed with the council that the review process will be completed by July 2012." not only evades the question but also is used to evade all the subsequent questions.

These responses throw into doubt the veracity and accuracy of all your responses on this issue to date.

Yours faithfully,

G Banks

Shropshire Council

Case reference: 2011110090

Dear Mr Banks

Thank you for your email.  I will forward your query to the team involved
and respond to you in due course.

Please note that this office is closed over the Christmas period. Our last
working day is Friday 23 December 2011 and we open again on Tuesday 3
January 2012.

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team
Shropshire Council
Shirehall
Abbey Foregate
SHREWSBURY
SY2 6ND

Tel:                  01743 252179
Email:             [Shropshire Council request email]
Web:               www.shropshire.gov.uk/foi.nsf

 From: G Banks <[FOI #95125 email]>
 Date: 20/12/2011 09:33:11
 To: [email address]
 Subject: Re: Request for information: 2011110090

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Shropshire Council

Dear Mr Banks,

Further to your follow up queries received by email on 20 December, we
reply as follows.

Your query:
"In response to my question:

"3. Where there is no available residential care placement at the
Council's 'usual' cost does the Council ask for a third party
contribution?"

you say

"If there is no available placement within a care home that an individual
has self-funded then the council will complete a risk assessment to
consider the potential of moving the person to another care home which has
an available placement at council rates. If there is an available
placement and the person by virtue of the risk assessment is deemed to be
able to move then the council would seek to move the person."

This does not answer the question "where there is no available residential
care placement at the Council's 'usual' cost does the Council ask for a
third party contribution?"

I can only conclude therefore that you are still asking for a third party
contribution despite the fact that there is no placement available at the
Council's 'usual' cost, which is unlawful."
 
Our response:

The Council can provide the following to assist in clarification:

The Council will carry out, as detailed, the risk assessment as its
intention will be to explore the possibility of moving the person if there
is a difference in Council rate and care home fee request.  As part of
this process the family will be involved and the Council proceeds as
follows:

a)        The Council confirms that it can identify a suitable alternative
care home that meets the person’s needs at its agreed rates and
providing…………
b)        The risk assessment confirms that the person can safely move to
the alternative provision, we would seek to move the person.
c)        If no suitable alternative placement can be identified then
Shropshire Council will fully fund the placement.
d)        If the risk assessment identifies that it would not be
appropriate to move the individual then Shropshire Council will fully fund
the placement.
e)        If after points a) and b) have been established the family wish
their relative to remain in the original care home then a discussion about
top ups will be held.

Your query:

"Furthermore, in answer to my question

"7. How many unlawful top-up fees have been identified since that review
process started?"

Your response "The review process agreed by the council with the LGO has
recently stated that no unlawful top-ups have been identified to date. As
you are aware the LGO has agreed with the council that the review process
will be completed by July 2012."

not only evades the question but also is used to evade all the subsequent
questions.

These responses throw into doubt the veracity and accuracy of all your
responses on this issue to date."

Our response:

The Council can provide further information to be absolutely clear: since
commencing the review no unlawful top-ups have been identified.

Please be aware that further repeated requests may fall within the
definition of a vexatious request according to the relevant Freedom of
Information guidance produced by the Information Commissioner's Office.

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team

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Dear Shropshire Council,

Thank you for your response.

You say that "a) The Council confirms that it can identify a suitable alternative care home that meets the person’s needs at its agreed rates and providing ......."

An "agreed rate" is not the same thing as the "usual rate." An "agreed rate" is a rate the Council agrees with a care home (including block bookings), which can vary. Whereas the "usual rate" is a fixed rate which the funding panel agrees to fund a care placement.

Your reply only concerns service users who are already in a care home, have been self funding and who are now subject to reassessment due to the Ombudsman's recommendations. These "historic" cases are being offered an alternative placement at the Council's "agreed rates" rather than at its "usual rate".

Furthermore, you have not answered this question in relation to the assessment of those not already in a care placement, who are being assessed for a residential care home.

Finally, I should point out that my questions are not vexatious, but are part of a campaign to ensure the Council is carrying out the Ombudsman's recommendations in full and is not continuing to act unlawfully with regard to the funding of adult social care.

Yours faithfully,

G Banks

Dear Shropshire Council,

Thank you for your response

Yours faithfully,

G Banks

Dear Shropshire Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Shropshire Council's handling of my FOI request 'Council's usual costs for residential care'.

I should point out that my questions are not vexatious nor are
they repetitive, they are part of my endeavour to ensure that the Council is carrying out the Ombudsman’s recommendations in full and is not continuing to act unlawfully in relation to residential adult social care funding policy. I have not intentionally broken up the questions in order to evade an appropriate cost limit. On the contrary, some of the answers I have received so far have attempted to evade the substance of my requests and I have therefore had to rephrase and clarify my requests in order to get the information I am requesting.

Therefore under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I would like further details of the following:

You say that "a) The Council confirms that it can identify a
suitable alternative care home that meets the person’s needs at its
agreed rates and providing ......."

An "agreed rate" is not the same thing as the "usual rate." An
"agreed rate" is a rate the Council agrees with a care home
(including block bookings), which can vary. Whereas the "usual
rate" is a fixed rate which the funding panel agrees to fund a care
placement.

Your reply only concerns service users who are already in a care
home, have been self funding and who are now subject to
reassessment due to the Ombudsman's recommendations. These
"historic" cases are being offered an alternative placement at the
Council's "agreed rates" rather than at its "usual rate".

Furthermore, please answer this question in relation to the
assessment of those not already in a care placement, who are being
assessed for a residential care home.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/co...

Yours faithfully,

G Banks

Shropshire Council

Case reference: 2011110090

Dear Mr Banks

Thank you for your email.

We will arrange for an internal revew of your information request to be
carried out.  This will be undertaken by an officer who was not involved
with providing the original response.

The outcome will be sent within 20 working days.  

Yours sincerely

Information Governance Team
Shropshire Council
Shirehall
Abbey Foregate
SHREWSBURY
SY2 6ND

Tel:                  01743 252179
Email:             [Shropshire Council request email]
Web:               www.shropshire.gov.uk/foi.nsf

 From: G Banks <[FOI #95125 email]>
 Date: 07/02/2012 08:13:40
 To: FOI requests at Shropshire Council
<[Shropshire Council request email]>
 Subject: Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Council's
usual costs for residential care
---------------------------------------------------------

     Dear Shropshire Council,
   
    Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
    Information reviews.
   
    I am writing to request an internal review of Shropshire Council's
    handling of my FOI request 'Council's usual costs for residential
    care'.
   
    I should point out that my questions are not vexatious nor are
    they repetitive, they are part of my endeavour to ensure that the
    Council is carrying out the Ombudsman’s recommendations in full and
    is not continuing to act unlawfully in relation to residential
    adult social care funding policy. I have not intentionally broken
    up the questions in order to evade an appropriate cost limit. On
    the contrary, some of the answers I have received so far have
    attempted to evade the substance of my requests and I have
    therefore had to rephrase and clarify my requests in order to get
    the information I am requesting.
   
    Therefore under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I would like
    further details of the following:
   
    You say that "a) The Council confirms that it can identify a
    suitable alternative care home that meets the person’s needs at its
    agreed rates and providing ......."
   
    An "agreed rate" is not the same thing as the "usual rate." An
    "agreed rate" is a rate the Council agrees with a care home
    (including block bookings), which can vary. Whereas the "usual
    rate" is a fixed rate which the funding panel agrees to fund a care
    placement.
   
    Your reply only concerns service users who are already in a care
    home, have been self funding and who are now subject to
    reassessment due to the Ombudsman's recommendations. These
    "historic" cases are being offered an alternative placement at the
    Council's "agreed rates" rather than at its "usual rate".
   
    Furthermore, please answer this question in relation to the
    assessment of those not already in a care placement, who are being
    assessed for a residential care home.
   
    A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
    available on the Internet at this address:
   
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/co...
   
    Yours faithfully,
   
    G Banks
   
   
   
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    Please use this email address for all replies to this request:
    [FOI #95125 email]
   
    Disclaimer: This message and any reply that you make will be
    published on the internet. Our privacy and copyright policies:
    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/offic...
   
    If you find this service useful as an FOI officer, please ask your
    web manager to link to us from your organisation's FOI page.
   
   

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Shropshire Council

Dear Mr Banks

Further to your request for an internal review on two requests for
information reference numbers 2011110090 and 2012010003.  As noted, we are
of the view that the requests are of a similar nature. We are therefore
conducting the reviews side by side.

Our response will therefore be due 20 days after receipt of the second
request for a review. The second request for a review was received in
relation to request reference 2011110090 on 7 February 2012.
The response to the review is therefore due on 6 March 2012.
Information Governance Team
Shropshire Council
Shirehall
Abbey Foregate
SHREWSBURY
SY2 6ND

Tel:                  01743 252179 / 01743 252774
Email:            [Shropshire Council request email]
Web:               www.shropshire.gov.uk/foi.nsf

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!
*****************************

Tim Collard, Shropshire Council

Dear Mr Banks

I have been asked to respond to you regarding your two review requests
under references 2011110090 and 2012010003.

I have had no previous involvement in your applications under the Freedom
of Information Act. I apologise for the slight delay in providing this
combined response.

2011110090

You have challenged use of the phrase "agreed rate" when you were raising
an issue in connection with the statutory phrase "usual rate". I think it
was unhelpful to use the phrase "agreed rate" but I have been assured that
there was no intention to mislead you. The phrase "agreed rate" should
have read "usual rate". In this respect I note that in answer 2 to your
FOI request (ref: 2011110004) it was explained that "The usual cost....is
determined annually through negotiation with SPIC".

You also raise the point that the Council's response only concerns service
users already in a care home. I would agree with you, as clearly there
would be no need to undertake a risk assessment into moving someone from
placement to placement if they are not already in residential care. The
answer to your question is that if, after extensive consideration of all
available alternatives, the only option that can meet an individual's
needs is a residential care placement at more than the Council's "usual
cost", then the Council would be obliged to meet the full cost (less any
standard contributions)

2012010003

You have raised certain queries in your initial response on the 1st
January which do not seem to have been addressed. However, as you have not
asked for them to be dealt with in this Review I have not considered them.

In your Review request you have asked "Of the 137 placements identified,
how many of these were offered a placement at the Council's usual rate"
prior to being asked to pay a third party contribution".

The Council has accepted the findings of the Local Government Ombudsman
that its practice in this area needed to be improved. It would take a
considerable period of time to look at the individual files for all 137
service users to provide an answer to your query. Even if that specific
task did not in itself take more than 18 hours to complete, the total time
to deal with all your various requests in this area would do
when aggregated together. We have agreed with the Local Government
Ombudsman to carry out an analysis of relevant cases through the Annual
Review process.

 

I agree with the conclusion that it was appropriate to aggregate your
various requests as they are directed towards the same purpose of
clarifying the extent to which the Council has responded to the
recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman. I therefore do not
think it was unreasonable for the Council to conclude that to respond to
all the various aggregated requests would take it beyond the 18 hour
threshold. Nevertheless in the interests of transparency I am able to
inform you that there were 161 block purchased beds in June 2011.

I have endeavoured to answer your third review question above.

 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the information commissioner for a
decision.  The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:  Information
Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
5AF. You can find more details at [1]www.ico.gov.uk or by telephone on
01625 545700.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Tim Collard

Legal Services Manager - People

Legal and Democratic Services

Shropshire Council

(01743 252756)

www.shropshire.gov.uk

 

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Dear Tim Collard,

Thank you for your review.

Regarding your response to request 2011110090:
"You have challenged use of the phrase "agreed rate" when you were raising an issue in connection with the statutory phrase "usual rate". I think it was unhelpful to use the phrase "agreed rate" but I have been assured that there was no intention to mislead you. The phrase "agreed rate" should have read "usual rate"."

This can only mean that these "historic" cases are being offered an alternative placement at the Council's "usual rate" because the Council is "exercising its discretion" to pay a top-up which is the difference between the "usual rate" and an agreed rate with the care home as there are no care homes in Shropshire that can provide suitable care at the Council's "usual rate".

And:
"if, after extensive consideration of all available alternatives, the only option that can meet an individual's needs is a residential care placement at more than the Council's "usual cost", then the Council would be obliged to meet the full cost"

You have not answered the question. You have not said that the Council will carry out its duty to offer a residential care placement that can meet an individual's needs at the Council's "usual rate" (prior to any other action such as demanding a top-up fee from relatives, or the Council "exercising its discretion to exceed its usual costs")

I can only conclude therefore that Council continues to demand top-up fees from relatives unlawfully, according to the Ombudsman's definition.

Regarding your response to 2012010003:
"Of the 137 placements identified, how many of these were offered a placement at the Council's usual rate" prior to being asked to pay a third party contribution".

To this question you have replied:
"It would take a considerable period of time to look at the individual files for all 137 service users to provide an answer to your query" but that "the Council has accepted the findings of the Local Government Ombudsman that its practice in this area needed to be improved."

This answer speaks for itself.

Yours sincerely,

G Banks

Tim Collard, Shropshire Council

I am out of the office. If the matter is urgent please contact Claire Ball
on 01743 2706. Thanks.

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