We have an agreed respite package from Social Care, of one weekend a month in a respite provision and we receive Direct Payments funding to pay for a certain number of hours of Yorkshire Grandma’s time every week too. That has been agreed and has been funded for at least 8 years and has worked well in all of that time. I had to set up a special bank account for the Direct Payments cash to go into and to use a payroll company to advise me how much to pay her and HMRC each month and I would simply transfer the right amount to them both by online banking, while Social Care would pay for the respite provision directly. This well established system worked smoothly for years, until Joshua turned 18, when everything came crashing down around our ears:
In March this year, I was paid for Yorkshire Grandma’s hours without a problem, as I always kept a ‘float’ of around £500 in that bank account, and I simply did not notice the balance. It was not until April’s hours became payable, that I found that I did not have enough cash in the account to cover her exceptional £1000 pay run. I investigated and saw that no money had been paid in by the Council since February and I knew immediately that this had been a casualty of adult transition. I contacted my social worker and the payments department of the Council, who explained that Children’s Services had stopped payments but that Adults had not yet picked up the responsibility. My social worker confirmed that this was the case and assured me that as his hours and respite had all been approved, that the cash would be forthcoming as soon as possible. I was given the name of somebody in Direct Payments to liaise with. I mistakenly thought that it was a simple paperwork error, that it would be quickly and easily remedied, but I was very wrong.
The ‘personalised budget’ as it is now called, has taken a full four months to materialise into my bank account since Joshua’s birthday, and that has been with a considerable amount of chasing. It has not helped, that between April and June, due to my Mum’s illness, I have been relying upon Yorkshire Grandma more than usual to cover long days and even overnight stays while I was hospital visiting and then making funeral arrangements. I am not comfortable owing anybody money and so I covered her ‘wages’ from my own personal money in April and then from Joshua’s savings in May, as I did not expect her to work for nothing while this matter was resolved. So last night, finally, I was able to pay Yorkshire Grandma and HMRC as well as myself and Joshua back.
Just to add to the confusion and frustration, in May I received an invoice from Joshua’s new adult respite provision for the hours that they had covered during April. I queried that with my social worker too and she explained that, now he was adult, these short breaks were also to be funded from our missing personalised budget! This was news to me, as I had never previously seen those invoices. Before I had paid for April’s care, a second invoice arrived for May’s! I deliberately did not pay these two invoices from my own money, as I hoped that the they could be helpful in putting pressure on Social Care to get themselves organised. So I paid both of their invoices last night too.
All seems to be well now, provided that the monthly amount continues to appear into my respite bank account regular as clockwork, like they used to do. It has been a fraught three months, when nobody seemed to share the same sense of urgency that I felt and I have been required to chase it regularly, so that Joshua did not fall off anyone’s radar. I am still not clear why it happened, as I had been working towards Joshua’s 18th birthday for over a year before it happened, so it should not have been a shock to anyone in social care or direct payments that the anniversary was coming. I was so focused on finding the right respite provision to replace our beloved Children’s service, that it never occurred to me for one minute to ask if the funding would all be in place in time, as we had had that approved months earlier. Having identified a problem also, I had not appreciated that it would take over two months to resolve matters. This has been a painful learning experience for me and as a result I will question everything in the future and I hope that Social Care have also learnt from our experience so that nothing similar happens to other families in the future, as for us, the timing could not have been worse.