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Minutes of the Client User Group Meeting 24 March 2004

1. Welcome by the Chair

The chair welcomed everyone and opened the meeting.

2. Matters Arising

2.1 Recommendations for Increased Funding

As mentioned in the last meeting the Quinquennial Review had recommended two-yearly reviews of our maximum sums. A recommendation for an increase to the current maximums had been put forward in January 2004. Department of Work and Pensions announced that the new maximums would take effect from 1 April 2004. To clarify the new maximum sums are £420.00 per week for 1993 Fund clients (with the joint funding ceiling for the first six months at £715.00 per week), and £715.00 maximum payment for Extension Fund clients.

The group asked how these sums were arrived at. The Information and Service Director explained that the Trustees had looked at inflation, the retail price index and the increase in average earnings to arrive at an increase that was approximately 2.5%. He made it clear that there was no set format for calculating future increases to the maximum sums.

The group asked if there should be automatic annual increases to ILF awards across the board. The Information and Service Director explained that the Fund bases its awards on the actual cost of care, and therefore a straight percentage increase to all awards every year was not an accurate representation of what care is being employed. He reminded the group that users can notify us at any time of changes to the cost of care for an increase to their ILF award. Action Point: to include article in next User Newsletter advising clients that they can contact us at any time for a review of their funding.

2.2 Review of Literature

The Information and Service Director announced that there will be an automatic review of ILF literature (leaflets, guidance notes, etc) every six months. This is to ensure that the material we have remains up to date and meets both the ILF’s needs and the need of our users.

2.3 The ILF Website

The Information and Service Director explained about the progress of the website. The ILF is reviewing content and also looking for a new company who can manage the website.

2.4 Professional User Guide Update

In addition to the Client User Guide, the ILF has also produced the PUG which goes into a lot more technical detail and is designed – as the title suggests – for professional users (such as Social Workers). The PUG has been sent to all of the ILF’s Local Authority Contact Officers in the hope of creating better informed staff within Social Services Departments across the country. It will also be available to view on the ILF website from April 2004. (The official launch of the document was at the ILFA Study Day on 25 March 2004.)

2.5 Direct Payments

The group talked about their experiences of Direct Payments following a comment made by one member. The group agreed that Direct Payments work best when there is a support mechanism for users – for instance, Local Authority help groups to provide assistance with recruitment, contract management, paperwork, etc.

The Information and Service Director explained that ideally the ILF need to tap into these support services as well due to the link between Direct Payments and ILF funding.

2.6 New Trustee

The Department of Work and Pensions have announced that a new trustee has been appointed. Sydney Shore has retired and been replaced by Nick Danagher, joint chair of NCIL and Chief Executive of Surrey CIL.

2.7 New roles

The Information and Service Director explained that he now has a deputy at HEO level. This person can be contacted by Client User Group members if neither the Director or the Client Liaison Manager are available. Their title is Information and Service Manager. Action Point: a fully updated contact sheet with all our names, titles, e-mails and telephone numbers to be provided for User Group members.

2.8 Doors

After concerns were raised a set of double doors on the ground floor will be taken away to improve accessibility.

2.9 Meeting Room

Due to the file-weeding process half of the meeting room space on the ground floor will be lost. The group agreed that we should see if we can manage with the smaller room for the next meeting – but if there are problems we shall start looking for an alternative meeting venue.

2.10 Annual Report

The new Annual Report for 2004/2005 will be coming out. The group were asked for their written contributions. A feature of the work of the User Group or their experiences of using ILF were suggested. The Information and Service Director requested that any contributions were forwarded to him by the end of April at the latest.

3. Introduction to the Customer Service Strategy

The Information and Service Director explained what the Customer Service Strategy was and the reasons behind it. The group were given copies of the strategy to take away and look at. They were asked to advise if they felt anything was missing.

4. “Hidden Costs”

The User Group began a discussion on what they felt were extra or “hidden” costs involved in employing personal assistants. Various costs were talked about:

  • Cost of advertising for new PAs
  • General recruitment costs (sending out applications, etc)
  • General overheads (printing paper, ink cartridges, envelopes, stamps, text messaging staff,
    producing rotas and time-sheets, cost of phone calls)
  • Cost of putting PAs on to your car insurance
  • Public Liability Insurance
  • Cost of having PAs sleep over (extra linen, extra washing, extra facilities used, use of electricity)
  • Training new PAs
  • Giving bonuses to long-serving staff
  • Giving Christmas cards or presents to PAs
  • Cost of providing refreshments (tea and coffee, snacks)
  • Cost of admission to entertainments etc. while out
  • General wear and tear from having people in your house – including breakages

It was generally agreed that the best way to deal with these costs would be a reasonable flat allowance. Some group members commented that while Direct Payments recognised these on-costs the amount offered to remunerate them was “derisory”.

The Information and Service Director thanked the group for the enlightening discussion and pointed out that we may not be able to provide funding for some of the elements talked about, given that are Trust Deed stipulates that funding is intended for personal and domestic care costs. However the findings will be passed on to our Policy Department to give the matter further consideration. Action Point: Give findings to Policy Team; also find out correct ILF position regarding Public Liability Insurance.

5. Time-sheets

The plan had been to look at sample time-sheets provided by group members and discussing the pros and cons of each. This had to be postponed due to lack of time. It will go on to the agenda for the next meeting.

6. Any Other Business

Issues already planned for the next meeting are the postponed discussion about time-sheets and the group’s plans for a Client User Group social event. The next meeting will be on 26 May 2004 commencing at 11.30am.

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