Elena got in touch with our Legal Rights Service after her local authority (LA) repeatedly refused to undertake a standalone Parent Carer Needs Assessment (PCNA).
Her 10 year old son, H, has a diagnosis of autism with Pathological Demand Avoidance. Elena self-referred for a PCNA to try to get support for H and the whole family as they were struggling due to his disability. Her LA stated that she could only receive support if H first had a section 17 assessment of his own needs. Elena felt that she was being forced down the S17 route against her will and that she was being bullied into it.
The assessment was carried out and Elena described the process as being “highly demeaning, intrusive and insensitive’ causing her and her husband to feel ‘violated’. She explained it was an extremely stressful experience which resulted in her terminating the assessment prematurely. Instead of assessing her family’s needs, the LA treated her family as if there were serious safeguarding issues – despite there being no evidence of any child protection concerns or reason to suggest there may be.
Following a complaint regarding the nature of the assessment, the LA apologised to Elena, invited her to pilot a newly introduced PCNA form, and a standalone PCNA was completed. Following this Elena was informed that she did not qualify for any support and couldn’t access respite care or direct payments to help in her caring role as H wasn’t ‘open’ to the social services caseload. The LA said that her son didn’t meet their eligibility criteria for support. You can read more about PCNAs and eligibility criteria in our Parent Guides, Social Care in England and Social Care in Wales.
Our Legal Rights team suggested that Elena write to the LA asking for them to confirm in writing what eligibility criteria they were referring to and detailed reasons as to why H does not meet their criteria. They also suggested she ask on what legal basis they were refusing to provide care to her following the standalone PCNA, with specific reference to S17(3) of the Children Act 1989 which states that: “any service provided by an authority in the exercise of functions conferred on them by this section may be provided for the family of a particular child in need or for any member of his family, if it is provided with a view to safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare”.
Elena finally got the outcome she was entitled to and received an email offering her respite care to alleviate some of her caring responsibilities. This is a great success for Elena and the whole family, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic where families are facing greater stress and worry.
Elena told us: “Before I first heard about the law in relation to Parent Carers I was feeling really desperate; that I couldn’t cope or go on with my overwhelming caring responsibilities, and I was actually really scared about what might happen to me if I didn’t get any support. My husband was also really worried about me. I wasn’t in a good place. So without Cerebra I couldn’t have done any of this, since they were the ones who first told me about my rights as a parent carer (at a talk I attended, organised by my local Parent Carer Forum).
I first used their brilliant ‘Toolkit for Accessing Public Services’ to help me in challenging my local authority when they initially refused me a PCNA, and then also when they treated my family so appallingly via an inappropriate assessment. I ended up contacting the Cerebra Team directly when I needed specific legal advice, and Sophie and the team were really supportive and friendly, helping me with some specific wording which then resulted in what seemed to be a dramatic U-Turn on the part of my LA”.
“I am so delighted, as this has felt like a real victory, not just for my family, but for all parent carers in my area, since my LA have said that they are now able to offer both a standalone PCNA and a respite package to all parent carers within the LA for whom a need for respite is identified as a result of their PCNA.”
If you have had a similar experience with your LA, you can use our template letter “We Want To Complain About an Inappropriate Child in Need Assessment” to lodge a complaint.
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity