Debt Management and Recovery Policy for care & residential services debt

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1 Debt Management and Recovery Policy for care & residential services debt V Jun

2 LEFT BLANK INTENTIONALLY 2

3 Table of Contents 1 Introduction and Background 4 2 Legal and Policy Framework 4 3 Charged Services Charges under the Charging for Residential Accommodation Guide Charges under the Fairer Charging Scheme 5 4 Services that are not charged for 5 5 Fixed Rate Services Recovery of fixed rate services 6 6. Financial Assessments Assessing the customer s ability to pay Property Deferred Payments Scheme Third Party Payments and Top Ups Overpayments to Residential Care Homes 7 7 Individual Budgets - Fairer Charging Guidance Cash Individual Budgets Virtual Individual Budgets Mixed Individual Budgets Individual Service Funds (ISF) Audit of Individual Budgets Recovery of money owed 9 8 Supporting Policies Equal Opportunities Mental Capacity Act Retention of supporting documents 9 9 Debt Recovery Process 9 10 Financial Regulations Policy Review 10 Appendix 1 Debt Recovery Process 11 3

4 1. Introduction and Background Manchester City Council (the Council) needs to demonstrate to the residents, elected members and tax payers of the City that it collects all income due from whatever source as effectively and efficiently as possible. The Audit Commission report on Charging for Care states that income collected from charges can be used to protect services, extend access and promote independence and well being of customers. Effective financial management is fundamental to being able to fund the quality of services the Council provides. The best method of debt collection is the prevention of debt arising and this policy covers both prevention and recovery. This policy covers the debt management and recovery of the Council s care and residential services and describes the approach that the Council will take in carrying out this function. Key Principles of the Policy 1. Collection of all money due; quickly, efficiently and economically taking into account the financial circumstances and mental capacity of the customer. 2. Prevention of debt and arrears; by prompt billing and collection of money due, affordable repayment plans and early intervention when a customer is in arrears. 3. Provision of a legal framework to enable legal enforcement (where necessary) to recover debts. 4. Compliance with the Council s Financial Regulations and Standing Orders. This policy is also supported by operational procedures for staff within the Council. 2. Legal and Policy Framework This policy provides a framework to enable legal enforcement to be undertaken to recover debts where appropriate. The method of recovery of money owed depends on whether the care services are provided in the community or in a residential environment. For care services which are provided in the community, the Fairer Charging Guidance is applied and for residential care, the Charging for Residential Accommodation Guide (CRAG) is used. The main powers and duties for local authorities to charge for Social Care services are described in the following acts of legislation: Part 3 National Assistance Act 1948; Section 17 of the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983 (HASSASSA); National Assistance (Assessment of Resources) Regulations 1992; and Charging for Residential Accommodation Guide (CRAG). 4

5 Powers to make reasonable charges for certain non-residential services are included in the following acts of legislation: Welfare Services for Disabled Persons (section 29 National Assistance Act 1948); Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act; and Services for Older People (section 45 Health Services and Public Health Act 1968) Failure to pay cannot be the grounds for the termination of a service (Section 17 HASSASSA 1983) and the charges are recoverable as civil debt. 3 Charged Services The Council will charge for the following services: 3.1 Charges under CRAG Respite care; 24 hour care in registered care / nursing home; and Third party top ups for the above services. 3.2 Charges under the Fairer Charging Scheme Home care support; Purchased activities including day care; Rent for accommodation; Support in Adult Social Care accommodation; Respite Care; and Transport costs. 4. Services that are not charged for The Council will not charge for the following services: Aftercare services provided under Section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983 are exempt from charges under Section 17 of the HASSASSA Providing advice about the availability of services or for the assessment of community care needs and financial assessments. Services received by customers suffering from any form of Creuzfelt Jacob Disease (CJD). Services received by terminally ill* customers who are exempt from charges. *Regulation 2 of the Financial Assistance Scheme Regulations 2005 defines terminally ill as A person is terminally ill at any time if, at that time, they are suffering from a progressive disease and their death as a result of that disease can reasonably be expected within six months. This is the same definition that is used for social security benefits, for example when applying for early access to Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance under the Special Rules. 5

6 5. Fixed Rate Services Meals on Wheels and Community Alarms are fixed rate services. Unlike other community based services, customers do not need to have a community care assessment and meet the FACS (Fairer Access to Care Services) criteria to receive these services. 5.1 Recovery of fixed rate services Invoices for fixed rate services are raised through the Council s Corporate Financial System and recovery will proceed through an automated process. Where customers refuse to pay for fixed rate services by failing to pay any outstanding invoices over a period of two months, the service will be withdrawn. Before withdrawing the service the Council will, where possible, discuss the situation with the customer or their representative and undertake a risk assessment. 6. Financial Assessments As part of the Council s core assessment to determine if there is a need for care or residential services to be provided, the Council will undertake a financial assessment. This financial assessment will determine how much the customer is required to contribute towards the cost of their care and residential services. The Council will provide support through the assessment process and will need a full financial disclosure from the customer to undertake this assessment. The financial assessment process for customers in residential care is conducted in accordance with CRAG. 6.1 Assessing the customer s ability to pay The Council will establish if the customer has capacity to sign the consent forms or provide details of who is managing their financial affairs before the residential placement is made. If a customer lacks capacity or is subject to safeguarding procedures a referral is made to Client Financial Services to act as their Appointee/Deputy. Where a customer is required to contribute towards the cost of care and residential services, the Council s representative will meet with the customer and provide full details of the customer s financial commitment and their responsibilities. This will include the explanation of the financial contribution (how much, how it is calculated and the associated debt recovery processes including legal action if necessary). The process of recovering any outstanding debt is outlined in Appendix Property For customers who are going into residential care (assessed in accordance with CRAG) their property will be considered as part of the financial assessment process. The treatment of property owned by the person receiving care will depend on whether the resident is a legal or a beneficial owner. Where ownership is disputed, written evidence to prove ownership via the customer and Land Registry will be obtained and considered as part of this decision. 6

7 The Council will determine the value of the property at the time of the core assessment. This will include asking the customer and looking at the value of similar properties nearby. Where the value is disputed or there is doubt as to the value, the Council will arrange for a professional valuation to support the assessment. 6.3 Deferred Payments Scheme In some circumstances, the Council will consider a Deferred Payment Scheme. Under this scheme the customer is not required to immediately sell the property they own or have a financial interest in. The Council will require a signed legal agreement that allows the Council to place a legal charge on the property and defer that part of their assessment relating to the value of their property until the property is sold. Once the agreement has been signed, a Charge will be placed on their property under section 55 of CRAG. The Charge will show up in future land searches and the customer s solicitor will ask the Council to remove the Charge before the sale goes through. The Council will request that the customer s solicitor signs an undertaking assuring the Council that the outstanding care fees will be paid from the proceeds of the house sale. Once signed, the City Solicitor will remove the Charge on the property. 6.4 Third Party Payments and Top Ups If a customer chooses residential care provision that is more expensive than those rates set by the Council, then the customer s representative (third party) can pay the difference in the amounts. This is also known as Third Party Top Up Fee. Customers are not permitted to pay their own Third Party Top Up. Instead their representative (third party) would enter into a legal agreement with the Council. This states that they are responsible to pay the top up fees and that any debts may be recovered from them through legal action. As part of this process, the Council will seek assurance that the third party has the means to make the payments and that they are fully aware of their responsibilities and the potential consequences of non-payment. The Council will not agree to any Third Party Top Up arrangement unless the legal agreement has been signed and agreed. If there are arrears on a third party account, the Council will commence the legal debt recovery process. The Council may choose to terminate the agreement and reassess the accommodation with a view to moving the customer to a less expensive placement that where possible would be within the rates set by the Council. Third Party agreements will be reviewed every year as part of the annual care review process. 6.5 Overpayments to Residential Care Homes Whilst attempts are made to minimise the number of overpayments being made, it is sometimes unavoidable that payments have been processed before notification to terminate the placement has been received. For example, date of death, discharges and timing of payment cycle etc. The Council will deduct and claw back any overpayments from future payments that are made to the care home. 7

8 7 Individual Budgets Fairer Charging Guidance In 2008, the Council adopted Individual Budgets as a method for delivering care services. Individual Budgets are designed to give the customer more choice and control over the services they receive. Instead of being offered a care package, customers are given their own budget and can then decide the best way to meet their needs with the money they have been allocated. The individual budgets available are: 7.1 Cash Individual Budgets This is where customers receive cash payments and organise their own support. The assessed customer contribution is deducted from the Individual Budget before the payment is made. Customers are expected to pay their contribution into the dedicated cash individual budget account. A Cash Individual Budget will not be awarded until the financial assessment has been completed. Customers are required to keep records of how their Individual Budget has been used. Use of the Individual Budget is subject to an audit review (the timescale of which is set by the Council). As a result of the audit, any unspent monies are identified and will be required to be repaid to the Council. Existing customers may wish to move from a Virtual Budget to a Cash Individual budget following review. A cash individual budget will not be awarded if there are arrears or debt on the customer s account after an audit. Therefore an alternative provision of care needs to be identified with their case assessor or social worker until the arrears or debt is cleared. 7.2 Virtual Individual Budgets This is where the Council organises the support on behalf of the customer. The customer will be required to pay their assessed contribution to the council. The process of recovery for any outstanding debt is outlined in Appendix Mixed Individual Budgets This is a combination of the above options. This may require more intensive investigation given a combination of two processes. The customer will pay their client contribution for the virtual element of the budget to the Council. The debt recovery processes will be implemented for the virtual aspect of this budget. There may be occasions where the debt recovery process for virtual individual budgets is suspended whilst reconciliation on the account takes place due to issues raised regarding the quality and quantity of care provided. 7.4 Individual Service Funds (ISF) This allows a customer to find a limited company or a sole trader to manage the individual budget on their behalf. The ISF agreement is between the customer and the ISF provider and if a customer is assessed as having to make a contribution towards their care, then this is paid directly to the provider by the customer. It is the responsibility of the provider to recover any unpaid customer contributions and therefore outside the scope of this policy. 7.5 Audit of Individual Budgets 8

9 Individual Budget management will be subject to regular audit as determined by the Council. This will establish if the process is being managed and supported effectively and that financial records are being maintained. Failures or issues identified as part of the audit process will be discussed with the service user. In some circumstances this may result in a withdrawal of a Cash Individual Budget and a transfer to another support package. Initially a recommendation will be made by the Team Manager that will be based on an assessment of all the facts provided by the PAT Assessor/Social Worker. The final decision will be signed off and agreed by the appropriate District Manager. If agreed the customer will be notified in writing to the with an explanation of why the decision has been made. 7.6 Recovery of money owed As part of the Audit process or other action the Council may establish that money is owed to the Council. This could be as a result of: The customer under spending their agreed budget. The customer dying, or for some other reason no longer requires the service, and as a result an overpayment has been made. The customer not paying their agreed contribution resulting in a shortfall. The customer overspending their agreed budget. Where required, the Council will provide support to determine the exact amount owed, either through a close down of the account or budget, or through the agreed process. Letters will then be sent to the service user so that any money due can be repaid. In some circumstances the Council may agree a payment plan. The Council would not normally deduct any money due from future awards of funding (within care package and Individual Budget) to off-set payments from previous years. If after the issue of a bill and two reminder letters, there has been no contact, the account will be presented to the Adult Services Risk Panel for review. The panel will review support provided and action required and where necessary sign off the account for debt recovery. The amount due will be pursued via the agreed recovery process (Appendix one). 8 Supporting Policies 8.1 Equal Opportunities Policy Application of this policy is in accordance with the Council s Equal Opportunities Policy. The Council will consider individual access, communication and support needs to support equality of access and service delivery. 8.2 Mental Capacity Act 2005 Application of this policy is in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act All customers are assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity. In addition, all practical steps will be taken to ensure that a customer is supported to arrive at their own decisions. 8.3 Retention of Supporting Documents 9

10 All documentation which supports the customer s contribution will be retained for at least 6 years in case the customer or customer s representative defends any legal recovery action. In addition, all documents will be stored electronically. 9 Debt Recovery Process The debt recovery process described in this section will be adopted for the following services: Charges under CRAG o Respite care; o 24 hour care in a registered care or nursing home; o Third party top ups for the above services; Charges under Fairer Charging o Home care support; o Purchased activities including day care; o Rent for accommodation o Support in Adult Social Care accommodation; o Respite Care; o Transport costs Please see Appendix 1 for full details of this debt recovery process. A debt reminder letter will be issued where a customer fails to pay the charges detailed in their statement by the due date. Customers will be encouraged to discuss the reasons for non-payment and their individual circumstances with the Council in order that a repayment plan can be agreed. Failure to pay charges by the deadline will result in a final debt reminder letter being sent to the customer, setting a final deadline. Failure to pay by this final deadline will result in the Council issuing a letter before action that will lead to legal debt recovery action being undertaken. 10

11 Enforcement options available to the Council through the legal process include: Warrant of execution leading to bailiff action; The customer being required to attend court for an oral examination of means; Attachment of Earnings; Charging Order; Bankruptcy; or Third party debt order. Charges for community alarms and meals on wheels are subject to the separate Miscellaneous Debt Collection Policy and Process for dealing with Bad Debt. 10 Financial Regulations This policy will support the Council s Financial Regulations. Under Section D, Part 5 of the Council s Financial Regulations Financial Systems and Procedures the City Treasurer has specific responsibilities to: 1. Use debt recovery procedures to collect any income due to the Council which has not been paid in a specific timescale. 2. Approve the arrangements for writing-off any irrecoverable debts by Chief Officer and Heads of Service. 11 Policy Review This policy will be reviewed and signed of by the City Treasurer, the Director for Adults, the Executive Member for Adult Services and the Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources every two years or if there is a change to associated legislation or policies. 11

12 Appendix 1 Debt Recovery Process Stage 1 Statement to Letter Before Action Statement issued detailing charge Pay charge by due date Fail to pay charge by due date Debt reminder letter Deadline set for missing payment Pay charge by deadline date Pay charge by deadline date but fail to pay future charges Fail to pay charge by deadline date Final debt reminder letter Final deadline set for missing payment Pay charge by final deadline date Pay charge by final deadline date but fail to pay future charges Fail to pay charge by final deadline date Letter before action See process below 12

13 Debt Recovery Process Part 2 Letter Before Action to Enforcement Letter before action Response received within 7 days Response not received within 7 days County Court issues claims form to customer Response received within 14 days Response not received within 14 days Registered with the Court, recording debt due to the Council Customer files acknowledgement of service (this must be filed within 14 days of service and allows an extra 14 days to file a defence) Customer files admission with offer to pay and makes payment Customer files a defence, (this must be filed within 14 days of claims form if no acknowledgement of service has been filed) Court allocates claim to 1 of 3 tracks dependent on complexity and value of the claim: Small claims track Fast track Multi track Enforcement Options Warrant of execution leading to bailiff action Attend Court for an oral examination of means Attachment of Earnings Charging Order Bankruptcy Third party debt order 13

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