LEGAL EAGLE: Can the council stop funding for my autistic son’s holiday?

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My adult son with autism used to have a holiday funded by the Council, but his social worker now says that because of cuts to their funding they will no longer pay for this. Is this allowed?

Under the law, which applied up until the end of March 2015, there were specific legal provisions which in some circumstances meant Councils had a duty to fund holidays.

 Since the Care Act came into force on April 1, 2015, Councils now have to provide an amount of money – called a ‘personal budget’ – which is sufficient to pay for services which will meet those needs of the adult (your son) which meet the eligibility criteria – called his ‘eligible needs’.

 Holidays, or what are sometimes called ‘short breaks’ may be a reasonable way of meeting certain eligible needs, for example the need to develop and maintain family and other personal relationships.  

 Some individuals may need a break from their usual environment, but it is difficult to fit that need into the legal obligations of Councils under the Care Act.

 A blanket policy on the part of the Council that they will never allow their funding to be used on holidays or short breaks would be unlawful, as Councils must look at the circumstances of the individual, however if there are satisfactory and more economic ways of meeting needs then Councils are allowed to limit their funding to those costs, rather than funding more expensive ‘short break’ arrangements.

 In practice it is quite common for Councils to fund short breaks for adults living in independent supported living, rarer for breaks to be funded when adults are living in the family home, and almost unheard of for those in residential care.

 In a few cases it may be necessary for adults to have a short break not to meet their own needs, but because their carers have needs for respite (a break from caring) at home.

 If an adult with disabilities goes with his or her family on holiday, it may be possible to use some of their personal budget if in doing so the adult’s eligible needs would be met.

 The sensible approach is to discuss this with your son’s social worker before using the personal budget in this way.

 If extra expenses are incurred during a holiday because of disability, for example more expensive accommodation or special diet such expenditure is arguably ‘disability related expenditure’ which ought to be offset against income when it comes to calculating how much an adult ought to contribute to paying for the costs of their care.