The rules on managing the money given to Lancashire residents to meet their care needs are set to be tightened up.
The proposed changes come amid concern that there are insufficient financial controls in place for people who commit the cash to an individual service fund (ISF) – and evidence that some of the money has occasionally been mismanaged.
Residents assessed as being in need of care receive their own personal budget, which they can decide to spend as they wish in order to secure the support they need.
However, more than 1,100 of those with care needs in Lancashire have opted to use an ISF – which sees their budget passed to a third party provider which manages it on their behalf.
The idea of the system – which was introduced in 2009 – is to allow greater flexibility in meeting care needs and also provide an option for those without the mental capacity to make the necessary arrangements for themselves.
But papers presented to a meeting of Lancashire County Council’s cabinet state that there is only “vague governance” around how the money is managed – and “little or no evidence” is provided to the council to demonstrate…what care is delivered or what outcomes are achieved”.
“When you consider that we’re spending a million pounds a week on this, I think we should have more accountability [and] know where the money is going – and quite honestly we don’t,” said County Cllr Graham Gooch, cabinet member for adult services.
“There have been a small number of cases where we’ve found mismanagement of these funds,” he added.
A consultation will now take place on the introduction of a stricter set of rules and principles which should underpin ISFs.
Under the proposals, there would be a demand that detailed records of expenditure be made available to the council and the individual upon request. A monthly statement should also be provided.
The rules would stress that the money could only be spent on the holder of the personal budget and that no management or business costs of the ISF organisation should be taken from it – with these instead covered in the hourly rate paid by the council.
The proposed arrangements will promote flexibility and stress the need for the individual to be involved, where possible, in choosing how they are looked after.
Almost all residents with an ISF in Lancashire live in supported accommodation.