Care plan reviews – what you need to know
Local authorities have a duty to meet the eligible social care needs of adults and children and to provide a care and support plan (for adults) and a child in need plan (for children) setting out how they will do this.
Local authorities are required to review care and support plans regularly to ensure that they are meeting the individual’s needs.
We often advise clients whose care plans have not been reviewed by the local authority for over 12 months, or in some cases several years, which sometimes means people are left without care and support to meet their needs. In other cases, clients are concerned that a local authority may cut their care package following a review.
What is the purpose of a care plan review?
The purpose of a review is to ensure that you or your child’s care plan is up to date, to identify whether you or your child’s needs have changed and whether a new needs assessment is required.
The review must not be resource-led. In other words, the purpose of the review must be to ensure that you or your child’s eligible needs are being met, and not simply for the local authority to save money. The local authority cannot lawfully reduce or withdraw a care package unless it has carried out a review and found that you or your child’s eligible needs have changed, or can be met with a different care package. If a local authority reduces or withdraws your or your child’s care package without carrying out a reassessment of your needs, then this is likely to be unlawful.
When should the Local Authority review your social care plan?
If care and support plans are not regularly reviewed, this can leave people without sufficient or appropriate care, and is also unlawful. In one particularly concerning example, we recently acted for a client in the London area whose care plan had only been reviewed once in the last 7 years, and even then without the family being aware, leaving the adult with inadequate support to meet their complex needs.
For adults, section 27 of the Care Act 2014 confirms that a local authority must keep care and support plans under review ‘generally’ and that they must conduct a review of the care plan if a ‘reasonable request’ is made by or on behalf of the adult with care needs.
The Care and Support Statutory Guidance (which local authorities must follow unless there is a good reason not to do so) makes clear that the local authority:
- should conduct a periodic review of all care plans no later than every 12 months, whether a request is made or not;
- must also carry out a review when information or evidence arises that suggests that the person’s circumstances have changed in a way that might affect the appropriateness of the care plan;
- should consider a ‘light touch’ review 6-8 weeks after a care plan is agreed and signed off.
The Working Together statutory guidance confirms that child in need plans should also be reviewed regularly to analyse whether sufficient progress has been made to meet the child’s needs. The Disabled Children’s Handbook explains further that a care plan should normally specify a ‘review date’ which will ordinarily be within 12 months, although where there is a material change in a disabled child’s needs, a reassessment should be undertaken without delay.
If the local authority wishes to review you or your child’s care plan, it is usually advisable to engage with that review. However, if the local authority proposes to review the care plan more frequently than the statutory guidance recommends (annually), then there should be a good reason for this, for instance a change in you or your child’s circumstances or needs.
How should you prepare for a review?
The social worker or assessor may not always make it clear that the purpose of a meeting they have arranged with you is to review you or your child’s care plan, or to reassess needs. If a meeting is arranged, you should ask the local authority to confirm the purpose of the meeting, so that you can prepare.
In order to prepare for a review, it is advisable to gather any evidence which demonstrates what you or your child’s needs are, and what support you need to meet them. For instance, it may help to keep a diary which documents your/their needs on a day-to-day basis. You may also want someone to attend the meeting to support you, such as a family member. If you are likely to have substantial difficulty in being involved in your review then the local authority must arrange an independent advocate to support you.
What do you if your care package is withdrawn or reduced
If the review leads to a reduction or withdrawal of care, but your needs/your child’s needs have not changed, you should ask for a copy of the review and new care plan. You may wish to make a formal complaint, or you may wish to seek the advice of specialist solicitors. It is important to act quickly – there are strict deadlines for making an application to Court to challenge a decision of a local authority. We provide more information about this in our article on judicial review here.
If these issues are affecting you or someone you know then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
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