My child has special needs – Can the local authority reduce their package of care unilaterally?
The short answer is ‘no’. If the local authority has agreed to your child receiving a package of care, based on their special needs, and they want to change this, the local authority should provide you with a copy of their re- assessment, or reasons for the proposed changes. The local authority should also give you an opportunity to comment on the changes before they ask the local authority Care Package Panel to authorise the changes.
In a recent case, Lewisham Council was criticised for reducing the care and support package of two brothers with autism without telling their mother the reason for the decision. This had a significant impact upon the family since it resulted in the boys’ respite care being significantly reduced.
The mother lodged a formal complaint and the local authority delayed in dealing with the complaint. The local government ombudsman upheld the mother’s complaint and the local authority was asked to pay the mother a lump sum in recognition of the distress caused to her.
If the local authority proposes to make any changes to a package of support for your child, it is very important that you have a clear understanding of why this has been suggested, so that can review whether it is justified in the circumstances. The local authority’s decision-making process must be transparent. Any complaints made to the local authority should be dealt with promptly – usually within 25 working days (or up to 65 days in exceptional circumstances).
If your child has special needs and you experience any problems in dealing with the local authority regarding your child’s package of care our experienced Court of Protection team can assist you.