To move or not to move?

Rebecca Scadding of AMD Solicitors considers the funding implications for individuals with disabilities moving from one local authority area to another.

Most people take being able to move wherever they wish for granted, however, for those with disabilities it is not just the suitability of accommodation to their needs that has to be considered, the financial implications can also be very complex.

Since the 1990s Supported Living has become increasingly popular as an alternative to Residential Accommodation for people with disabilities. In an attempt to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach Supported Living gives individuals the opportunity to make their own choices about the care they receive.
Key benefits of Supported Living include choosing where to live, who to live with, how a care package is provided, how much care is required and access is available to a full range of welfare benefits plus additional funding.

Individuals with disabilities are historically one of the most excluded groups of people in the UK. Choosing Supported Living promotes freedom of choice, independence and responsibility, all vital aspects of being accepted within society.

Whilst on the surface this idea seems straightforward, funding implications can be much less so. Moving from one home to another, often involves moving from one local authority area to another and there has been some debate as to where the funding responsibilities lie when this occurs.

Local Authorities must provide funding (subject to usual eligibility criteria) to people who are 'ordinarily resident' in its area. The question is who is ordinarily resident? With no statutory definition given the court has defined this as "a man's abode in a particular place or country which he had adopted voluntarily and for settled purpose as part of the regular order of his life for the time being, whether of short or long duration".

This is not the only hurdle to overcome. Once ‘ordinary residence’ is established it is likely the entire process of assessment for funding and care support will need to be repeated, which often will not be instigated until the individual is physically resident within the community. This means that there may be a gap in funding when an individual initially becomes a resident of a new area.

To add to this, every local authority will differ in how their funding is assessed, their budgets for funding, how it is allocated and what types of care packages are offered, and what is more each case will be assessed on its own specific circumstances. This could mean that under a new local authority an individual may find themselves receiving less funding than they had previously. With these funding complications in mind the benefits of switching from Residential Care to Supported Living can be somewhat overshadowed.

An issue does not appear to arise if the decision to move an individual is made by the local authority currently providing the funding. In this instance the funding will continue to be provided by the home local authority. It is if the decision for an individual to move comes from the individual themselves, family members or another external party that the home local authority no longer has an obligation to continue providing the funding support.

There is no doubt that Supported Living as an alternative to Residential Care is on the increase and for the vast majority of cases where there is either an initial assessment or no movement between local authorities the issues above will not arise. However, local authority funding is essential to most individuals with learning disabilities and the implications are therefore important to consider.

Rebecca and her colleagues at AMD Solicitors can provide further information, advice and support for individuals with learning disabilities and their families. Contact rebeccascadding@amdsolicitors.com.

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