In a report published In April 2018, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (known as the LGO) has found against a Council who used an outdated matrix tool to calculate the costs for a support plan for a young man with complex needs.


In their findings, Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“Councils cannot put a cap on people’s budgets: the Care Act says eligible needs must be met, regardless of the cost.”


It has now been three years since the Care Act 2014 came into force and these important decisions by the LGO provide us with advice, guidance and understanding of the Care Act and its statutory guidance.

Specifically, in the report the LGO made these key findings:

  • The Care Act … requires councils to assess and meet eligible needs. The Council cannot set maximum budget levels. The Act says eligible needs must be met, no matter what the cost;
  • The Council may use bandings as a guide but, as the Care and Support Statutory Guidance states, such systems are unlikely to work in complex cases;
  • (P/P’s family and carers) cannot, in the end, insist on the location of care. Nor can the Council cap care on the basis of cost. The Council must use its professional judgment to decide where care is provided. (P/P’s family and carers) may have a strong preference for a certain day centre but the Council does not have to provide care at that centre.
  • The Council also has a Care Act duty to consider the wishes of those involved; service users and carers. It cannot force an unwilling carer to provide care she reasonably states she cannot give.
  • [In relation to transport costs and the Council’s policy] …it appears to have been part of a general withdrawal of provision and a cost cutting exercise. It was not based on assessments of need and was therefore in breach of the requirements of the Care Act and was fault.
  • The MAT (Matrix Assessment Tool) predates the Care Act. Its purpose is to ration available resources. The Care Act requires councils to meet eligible needs. It does not allow rationing for any reason. If a council cannot meet an eligible need, it must pay someone else to meet it.
  • The Council was also at fault for introducing the reduction in care as quickly as it did.


It reiterated important parts of the Care Act and the statutory guidance, namely:

"The Care Act 2014 introduced a requirement that local authorities should promote ‘wellbeing’ and ‘signifies a shift from existing duties on local authorities to provide particular services, to the concept of ‘meeting needs’…. The concept of meeting needs recognises that everyone’s needs are different and personal to them. Local authorities must consider how to meet each person’s specific needs rather than simply considering what service they will fit into". (Care and Support Statutory Guidance, Ch 1)


The LGO also focused on the needs of the Carer, stating:

"A council must consider whether to carry out a carer’s assessment if it appears the carer has need for support. It must assess the carer’s ability and willingness to continue in the caring role. It must also consider the results the carer wishes to achieve in daily life and whether support could contribute to achieving those results" (Care Act 2014, s10)


Finally, to conclude this analysis of the LGO decision, it’s important to note the LGO made comment upon the validity and legality of matrix tools used to calculate budgets but focusing on the Care and Support Statutory Guidance as follows:

“It is important to have a consistent method for calculating personal budgets that provides an early indication of the appropriate amount to meet the identified needs to be used at the beginning of the planning process. Local authorities should ensure that the method used for calculating the personal budget produces equitable outcomes to ensure fairness in care and support packages 4 regardless of the environment in which care and support takes place, for example, in a care home or someone’s own home. Local authorities should not have arbitrary ceilings to personal budgets that result in people being forced to accept to move into care homes against their will.” (Ombudsman’s emphasis added. Care and Support Statutory Guidance 2014, 11.22)


“There are many variations of systems used to arrive at personal budget amounts, ranging from complex algorithmic-based resource allocation systems (RAS), to more ‘ready-reckoner’ approaches. Complex RAS models of allocation may not work for all client groups, especially where people have multiple complex needs, or where needs are comparatively costly to meet, such as in the case of deaf-blind people. It is important that these factors are taken into account, and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to resource allocation is not taken. If a RAS model is being used, local authorities should consider alternative approaches where the process may be more suitable to particular client groups to ensure that the personal budget is an appropriate amount to meet needs” (Ombudsman’s emphasis added. Care and Support Statutory Guidance 2014, 11.23)


Conroys Solicitors LLP offer advice and assistance in legal matters relating to community care, mental capacity law, and deprivation of liberty. To arrange a free 30 minute consultation with one of our lawyers, please telephone the office on 01872 272 457.