In this section

Minutes of the Client User Group Meeting 24 November 2004

1. Matters Arising

1.1 Payment Assurance

One of the group members voiced concerns that the ILF may be overestimating the likelihood of fraud and that putting unnecessary extra pressure on disabled people by asking them for further record-keeping and evidence of expenditure. The feeling was that there is still not enough recognition from the ILF that the ILF is only one of the things that disabled people using personal assistants have to contend with. It was asked whether the ILF could use statements from the Inland Revenue to obtain the same information. The Information and Service Director explained that this is a method that is being considered as part of the current Payment Assurance project that is being carried out.

The Information and Service Director went on to talk about other ideas that are being considered. For example, currently we do not revisit an ILF user until 2 years after their assessment visit. An idea being mooted is that the ILF should revisit earlier to ensure that good record-keeping practices are in place, and that there are no problems with the care package – this early “after-care” may reduce the need for more stringent auditing procedures.

The Information and Service Director said that any measures the ILF would suggest would take into account the views of the User Group. The ILF would not take action based on information from the Inland Revenue or the DWP (which may be incorrect) without seeking further details from the user first.

A group member asked how long the ILF expects users to keep bank statements for. The ILF recommend that people keep them for 2 years (as this fits in with our 2 yearly review process) – but the ILF acknowledges (as in the User Guide leaflets) that the Inland Revenue expect statements to be kept for 7 years.

1.2 Website Developments

The website should be ready to start testing soon. It is likely that the new website will be up and running in January 2005.

2. Data Protection and Telephone Communication

The Information Manager at the ILF is looking at ways we can ensure – as much as possible – that staff know who are they are speaking to when they make and receive telephone calls (from a Data Protection perspective). Many organisations (especially banks and insurance companies) will – as standard practice – ask questions as a means of identification to establish who they are addressing, or ask for agreed passwords. The Information Manager wanted to know how the User Group would feel if people were asked for this type of information when contacting or being contacted by the ILF.

The group recognised that this would be very much a security measure and said that Data Protection has become a part of everyday life. People are generally so used to telephone transactions being dealt with in this way that the group felt it would not be an imposition should the ILF decide to do this. The group said that being asked for a date of birth or mother’s maiden name would be reasonable questions to ask. Many websites also ask for passwords (for instance, a pet’s name) so it is something most people will be used to.

It was commented that the ILF should also be mindful of what a user’s preferred method of communication is. For instance, some people would prefer not to be contacted by telephone, and would communicate mainly by email.

The ILF is already looking at the idea of a user information screen on its computer system which would tell staff what a client’s preferred method of communication is, when the best times of day to call are, and detail security passwords or information that can be used to identify a person.

It was also pointed out that ILF staff should recognise that a proportion of our users are likely to use hands-free phone systems with a loudspeaker. Therefore, if another person is present in the room when the ILF calls they may be able to overhear possibly sensitive information. It should be part of ILF staff training to check whether it is okay to discuss a matter over the telephone before they begin, or to consider using an alternative method of communication.

It was also suggested that the ILF should have a list of agreed contacts that can speak on the user’s behalf.

3. Future ILF Consultation

The Information and Service Manager explained about the Business Plan and how it impacts on the budget proposals for next year. Consultation with users forms part of the plan. One of the things the ILF want to do is expand and extend its consultation with users. As the Client Liaison Manager explained, one idea was to set up regional user groups – but this could actually be quite difficult to oversee and administrate. The new plan is to run a series of regional open meetings over the course of the year and use these as a way of speaking to ILF users. The meetings would be likely to follow the format of the roadshows but with workshops and discussion groups. It is planned that the format will be trialled in Leicester early next year.

The extra organisation needed for these events does mean extra work for the Client Liaison Manager, and the group were asked if they felt the User Group meetings could be reasonably reduced from 6 times a year to 4 a year, partly to take into account the extra time we want to devote on other consultation, but also with the hope of making the meetings more focussed and productive. The Information and Service Manager and the Client Liaison Manager had been concerned that as the group continues, it is not always easy to find subjects for the agenda that have not already been discussed. The preference for the ILF is to have a more focussed agenda with issues that would be appropriate for group discussion and input, and the feeling was that fewer meetings would enable this. Given the low turnout at some meetings it was also felt that reducing the overall number of meetings a year to 4 might mean greater attendance.

There were some reservations about this from the group. Meeting quarterly leaves a big gap between meetings and it was possible momentum could be lost. Also, there was a danger that some issues would slip by as they would not be current at the time of the meeting.

Overall the group were positive about the change and also for the plans for regional meetings. The group were assured that they could still have an input to the agenda, and that they should remain in contact with the Information and Service Director and the Client Liaison Manager at any time and feel free to get in touch about issues. The ILF and the Trustees have been impressed with what the group has been involved with so far and there is no intention of losing the momentum.

It was agreed that the group will try to meet 3-monthly now, meaning the next meeting will be 23 February 2004. If after a trial period it is agreed that the gap between meetings is too long there is always the possibility of reverting to the previous 2-monthly meetings.

After discussion the group agreed to continue to commence meetings at 11.30.

The group were asked if they would like to be present at the planned event in Leicester. The response from group members was positive. They would be able to talk to other users about their experiences of the User Group and encourage participation. It was suggested that the ILF could publicise the event through the NCIL newsletter.

4. Any Other Business

4.1 Reductions to ILF Awards

A group member raised a concern that people in receipt of Direct Payments may use some of that money for disability-related costs or costs associated with employing personal assistants, but the ILF would regard this as a surplus and make a corresponding reduction from the person’s ILF award.

The Information and Service Director said he was not aware of any difference in approach taken by ILF staff. There would not normally be a problem as the ILF would base a person’s offer on the cost of care including the Local Authority Direct Payments and how many hours of care they were intended to cover. At the assessment stage it would be normal to only include care costs as forming the Social Services’ contribution – funding for other elements would be disregarded.

At a review the ILF would be satisfied if the Direct Payment from the Local Authority covers the amount of hours agreed as part of the Social Services funding. There would only be an issue if the user was consistently using their Direct Payment to purchase things other than care or the Social Services had started to include extra costs as part of their contribution, and therefore the Social Services Department had reduced the amount of hours they had agreed to fund, or if this brought the Social Services’ contribution to below £200 per week.

The group were satisfied with this.

4.2 Next Meeting

The date for the next meeting was set as 23 February 2005 at the usual time of 11.30 am.

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