Agenda item

Financial Assessments Improvement Programme

Report by the Director of Law and Assurance.


The Committee is asked to consider the reports by West Sussex County Council and Healthwatch on the improvement programme put in place to develop the quality of customer service provided as part of the financial assessment for people in receipt of adult social care and support.


31.1     The Committee scrutinised the Financial Assessments Improvement Programme taking into account reports by the Interim Deputy Director of Finance and Healthwatch West Sussex (copies appended to the signed minutes) and a verbal contribution from Cllr Milne who said that the increase in people’s contribution towards the cost of their social care and support package had caused distress and was difficult for vulnerable people to afford. He suggested that in future any proposed increase of e.g. 20% should trigger an automatic investigation.


31.2     The Committee’s raised the following concerns/comments: -


·         The impact on individuals of the application of Disability Related Expenses (DRE)

·         The impact arising from the reduction in the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) despite financial assessments not being completed

·         Use of out of date disability data

·         The Improvement Plan needed to ensure it prioritised a personalised approach with the need to see demonstrable improvement within a clear timescale that delivered against the priorities for improvement addressing the Committee’s comments


31.3     Summary of responses to committee members’ concerns/comments: -


·         The Council is implementing a national charging regime which generates approximately £60m, a fundamental part of the Council’s Adults’ Services budget

·         Without charging there would have to be reductions in services

·         Managing the financial assessment process has to be transparent and clear with improved communication and information

·         Reviews of financial assessments not being carried out in a timely manner has contributed to the problems arising – the review of financial assessments reflected within the report has addressed this and timely reviews will be an on-going priority of the improved service.

·         Challenges exist in terms of maintaining up to date information about individual’s financial circumstances, which emphasises the importance of improving communication.

·         DRE is an integral part of the financial assessment and as such is something that can be explored, discussed and resolved as part of finalising the assessment and the assessed contribution.

·         The Minimum Income Guarantee is an integral part of the financial assessment and is applied as appropriate on an individual basis.

·         Decisions about what is included as DRE are linked to the care and support assessment of an individual.  There is a separation of duties applied to ensure that there is no conflict of interest and to support consistency in application.

·         The approach to assessing DRE will be part of the review of the ASC Charging Policy that is currently being undertaken.

·         The Council recognises the need to provide more public information and transparency about the application of DRE.

·         The Council has dealt with complaints openly and encouraged people to use the appeals process if they had any concerns about the outcome or accuracy of the financial assessment.

·         Complaints have primarily been about outcomes, not the assessment calculation

·         The Government has announced that it will increase the value of the MIG in 2022/23

·         When services were insourced, it was clear that there were capacity and management issues that needed to be addressed

·         The Council Plan describes the budget and what services will be provided

·         On 1 February the Cabinet will discuss the long-term view of adult social care

·         The Council recognises that services have to be efficient and people centred and is committed to these priorities

·         The customer journey is underpinned by the statutory guidance relating to charging for adult social care nationally

·         Engagement of carers and customers is imperative and is reflected within the priorities for the Improvement Plan

·         The Council took a balanced view on when new charges should apply, waiving or capping increases between April 2019 and January 2021 in recognition of delays experienced by individuals and the service improvements required.

·         All financial assessments are undertaken on the basis of identifying what an individual can afford to contribute towards the cost of the care and support they receive - where people are in hardship the Council will discuss their situation with them

·         There was no evidence of any ongoing specific issues relating to social care assessments

·         Agreed with mandatory training being delivered as part of the ongoing development programme

·         The extension of the end of the customer journey for Adult Social Care could be considered as part of the Quality Assurance process but case audit of staff is not possible

·         Work can progress with co-production on resources, but by the end of the financial year is undeliverable


31.4     The Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services appreciated the complex nature of the changes to the MIG and financial assessments and was sorry for the stress caused to some people. She said that the Council had engaged with customers and partners over the Adults Strategy and would continue to try to improve its services.


31.5     Resolved – that the Committee supports the recommendations from Healthwatch (taking comments from the service above into account), as follows: -


                     i.        Mandatory disability awareness training for all financial assessment staff by the end of the first quarter of 2022/23 that provides learning to improvement practice and communication

                    ii.        The Council Quality Assurance process is extended to include the end of the customer journey for Adult Social Care, including case audits of staff twice yearly.

                   iii.        Community organisations that support people who may or receive adult social care are given an appropriate level of information/ training so they can support people going forward

                  iv.        Communication and written resources are co-produced with Healthwatch and relevant community partners and people who may need adult social care in the future by the end of this financial year


and requests that: -


                    v.        A survey be co-designed with customer input to go out to people affected by the change in charging policy to get their opinions and to see if there are any outstanding issues

                  vi.        A progress report to be brought to the Committee in September on the Financial Assessments Improvement Plan

                 vii.        Data to be provided to members on how many people are affected by the review of financial assessments

                viii.        Future work on the Adults’ Social Care Strategy ensures effective engagement takes places with residents

                  ix.        Case studies be provided to residents to better understand the new process





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