This is the second part of my series on Personal Budgets. Please start with part one here.How does the assessment work?
When you eventually get assigned a social worker they will visit you to carry out an assessment. Don’t worry too much about this, it’s much more informal and relaxed than a benefits assessment, or something like that. They should be trying to meet your needs as best they can, and you have every right to have a say in this, and correct anything they get wrong.
The assessment isn’t usually a very specific question and answer session, but more of a chat that then gets converted to the information they need. However, if you’ve already thought carefully beforehand about the areas you’d like help with, you could write it up and give it to them, or simply make notes of specific points to say. It’s really up to you, and your social worker should find a way that makes you feel comfortable.
After this visit, the Social Worker will go and input all the information into their system. This is called the resource allocation system (RAS). A lot of people think you’d ask for you what you need first, and this information would get converted into an amount, but this isn’t how it’s done. It’s based on your circumstances and the level of help you require.
In some ways it’s a bit like a hidden points system, as the higher you score, the larger your budget becomes.
The way the review is set up is quite onerous, as not everyone’s situation always fits into the exact questions that they ask, but the social worker has no choice but to try and mould you to fit this form.
What does the review form look at?
It will begin with your details, your disability and how it affects you, your current care situation and your carer, anyone you care for (i.e. children), and your views/aspirations.
It then breaks the assessment down into certain criteria that they look at, which includes:
The Social Work has to answer the questions relating to each of these areas, and assess how high your need is.
I will give you an example of one of these, just so you get an idea. Under ‘Everyday Tasks’ one of the questions is on food and drink.
The options include:
- I am able to feed myself
- I need some help to feed myself (.e.g. cutting up food).
- I need to be encouraged or helped to eat.
- I am unable to feed myself without support and this needs to be done for me or with me.
The Social Worker has to select one, but if you don’t agree, you can ask for it to be changed and explain why. If at the end your budget doesn’t quite meet your needs, this is a really good place to carefully review and make sure each of the options fits your situation. Sometimes we make snap judgements about ourselves, such as, “Well of course I don’t need prompting to eat!” But sometimes if you think about it, sometimes this might apply when you’re in a lot of pain, or exhausted and don’t feel like eating even if you’re hungry. So maybe sometimes encouragement or help does happen.
The second part of the review form is looking at banding your needs, based on certain activities you would like to do. For example if you stated during your assessment that you cannot drive, the Social Worker will need to think about how this will impact you in each of the categories above. So taking the driving example, they may decide that not being able to drive could put you at risk of not accessing the community, and it would impact your relationships as you could become isolated. Each of these areas of concern will be assessed using the fair access to care eligibility criteria, and put into one of four bands: critical, substantial, moderate and low. The council has a duty to address any needs that are either critical or substantial. So carrying on with the driving example, they could say that they think you not being able to drive would very likely end up with you being isolated, so they may rate that as a substantial need that has to be addressed.
When you then get your budget, you must be able to ‘solve’ every issue that’s either critical or substantial. So the driving issue could be solved by hiring a Personal Assistant that can drive for you. However, this comes later in your Support Plan.
What you will need after the assessment has been carried out is a copy of your Review Notes, and the amount of your budget. Make sure at this point you challenge anything that’s not right about your Review Notes.
Sometimes your Social Worker will tell you your notes are now locked, and they can’t change it. If this is the case – tell them you need a review meeting. (It sounds ridiculous to have a review meeting before anything has happened, but this is down to the old-fashioned RAS system).
Once you’re happy with your Review Notes, and your budget, this is the point where you really get involved, and can start carving out the solutions to your problems in your support plan.
What doesn’t the assessment include?
Something I found off when I was assessed is that cleaning time isn’t included in the budget, nor things like help with pets or gardening.
So they’ll help you get out of bed, get washed and dressed and expect you to sit in squalor. While your dog starves in the corner. Lovely!
The reality is that once you’ve employed a Personal Assistant, you can ask them to do anything (within reason) and you’ll notice most adverts do mention cleaning of some kind. If Social Services give you time for something, you don’t have to use it for that task. You can shift tasks and timings around so everything you need gets covered.
It’s worth taking to your PA about this during the interviews, and checking they’re happy to do the cleaning, walk your dog or pull up some weeds. It’s all about being upfront to make sure you’re all on the same page.
At some point after your assessment, you will go through a means-test, usually carried out by your local County Council. There will be one of three outcomes after this test – you will have to pay everything, you’ll contribute towards the budget, or you’ll pay nothing. Your first £6000 worth of savings aren’t counted. There are also some other exceptions that also don’t count – such as a benefits back payment, or injury compensations.
Just because you receive income-related benefits, doesn’t mean you will pass the means-test. However, out-goings are taken into account – particularly those related to your disability.
To prepare obtain receipts for anything disability related. Do you have a cleaner, or gardener? Other things that count are if you pay for any therapies such as massage, counselling, osteopathy, or chiropody for your feet (or anything similar, these are just some examples!)
There are other categories as well such as if you buy anything medical that’s not on prescription – cream, joint braces/tubi-grip, etc. You also get an allowance if you need to wash clothes more than normal.
All of this information will be inputted into an income/out-goings sheet, and will calculate what you will have to contribute, if anything.
The next post will talk about creating your Support Plan, and how you may need to get past the ‘computer says no’ attitude from Social Services.