Ordinary residence, extraordinary mess
Disputes over which local authority funds a person’s care are causing anxiety and wasting public funds, says to a new publication from the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG). In Ordinary residence, extraordinary mess, VODG explains how authorities argue over someone’s “ordinary residence”.
These disputes mean that vulnerable people are left in limbo and care providers’ ability to deliver creative, personalised support is restricted.
Although ordinary residence guidance aims to establish which local authority has to fund their support , authorities often fail to agree responsibilities, using such disputes as an excuse to pass the buck. Providers can ask the Secretary of State to force a decision, but this can take months.
Causes of disagreements
Disagreements are mainly triggered when a person:
- funded by one authority to live in a registered care home in another authority (an out of area placement) moves into supported accommodation in the new (or “second”) authority
- is funded in an out of area home which then ceases to be registered as a care home
- leaves a residential college but wishes to stay in the area
VODG believes the Care Bill, introduced into parliament on 9 May, is a rare opportunity to resolve the chaos caused by ordinary residence disputes. The Bill, associated regulations and guidance must be unambiguous and should reflect today’s policies and models of provision. VODG believes that tackling ordinary residency problems should, in many cases, lead to savings.
The scale and impact of disputes is revealed in a recent VODG survey. The number of disputes reported - 146 over the last three years - indicates a significant national problem:
- in the last three years while disputes were being resolved, organisations had to cover a gap in fees in 67 separate cases, totalling an estimated £I,558,000
- in an average year, the total costs associated with ordinary residence disputes ranged between £108,000 - £302,000 with key expenditure including legal, property and staff time costs
- at least 825 staff days were spent resolving ordinary residence disputes, across all departments including senior and service managers, finance and administrative staff.
Person centred control
The government’s vision is that people have choice and control over innovative and person-centred support. However, ordinary residence rows undermine this, and proposed further local authority spending cuts will increase the temptation to pass the buck.
'Vulnerable people must not be left in limbo simply because authorities cannot agree over funding,' said John Adams, VODG general secretary. 'Funding should not be determined by the location or type of accommodation, but individuals should have a greater say in where and how they are supported. If people are truly to achieve choice and control over their own care, then the ordinary residence problem must be solved.'
Read Sarah Vibert's blog (Sarah is head of policy and development at Epilepsy Society)