The Lewisham Examination Committee discusses the curtailment of the ability of lawyer

Members of the control have urged the Lewisham Council to reconsider plans to remove a service that manages the finances of very vulnerable people.

Authority is offered by the council when residents are unable to manage their own financial affairs or when they lack the mental capacity to do so.

See related: Lewisham proposes cutting financial management service

It protects money for rent, ensures bills are paid, and protects people from being exploited.

As part of the three-year draft proposal for £ 40 million cuts, the Council plans to save £ 160,000 next year if the cut is approved in February.

See related: Lewisham Council publishes draft budget cuts

It is planned to look for external providers, which will result in customers paying “considerably more” for the service.

Lewisham currently provides financial assistance and management to approximately 380 adult Social Security clients.

The council can only charge clients for managing their finances if they have a power of attorney (around 80 people with a fund of £ 5m). However, the fees do not cover the cost of the service.

Funds are not available to the council for the remainder, managed under contract, and no fees are charged to clients for the service.

A Council document set out the risks of the proposed cut.

“If vulnerable customers have to pay third-party providers to provide this service, there is potential for financial abuse.

“In the past, outside vendors have made efforts to maintain standards and maximize growth for customers. However, these may not always be successful.

“Customers for whom we currently have a power of attorney will have to pay significantly more for financial support than they currently do.

“Those clients with whom we are appointed are expected to pay for the first time and from very limited amounts of income (ie benefits),” it says.

The proposed cut was part of the first round of cuts and concerns were raised in the Public Finance Committee in December.

There is absolutely nothing that would stop my sister and I from fully exposing her account if we feel like it, except our own sense of duty

Last night (Jan. 13) on the Healthier Church Committee, members urged members to keep the service internal but to charge fees.

Tom Brown, Executive Director, Community Services, told the committee, “It’s a complex subject and […] We need to make sure that we take good precautions to protect the assets of people who have no one else to do it.

“If it goes wrong, we are seen as negligent. We have to be sensitive to it and make sure we get it right. ”

Committee chairman John Muldoon said Mr. Brown made a “salient” point.

“These are people who have no one else to take care of their business. We are the last resort for them.

“I had statements from other agencies that we recommend that the council continue to provide the service internally and bill the service.

“They shouldn’t be punished for having no one else to look after them.

“And they trust the council’s social workers. It’s hard for us to accept this cut like this, ”he said.

Cllr Alan Smith shared his own experience and warned of what could happen if the service was not audited.

“I have shared authority with my sister on behalf of my mother who has dementia and there is so little control outside of all that the council can offer.

“There is absolutely nothing that would stop my sister and I from fully exposing her account if we feel like it, except our own sense of duty.

“And I would be very concerned if we were to develop that kind of power to access other people’s money and goods without a very close examination.

“If you keep it in the house, this exam will continue,” he said.

Mr Brown said there would be a protective court review, but members said it was a “cumbersome” and costly process.

At the meeting to consider the second round of cuts, members also agreed on several other recommendations that will be forwarded to the Public Finance Committee.

The Council proposes a £ 1 million cut through ‘better use’ of the Better Care Fund. The committee asked for a clear timetable for the review and when it would receive a report on it.

There are also proposals to reduce adult education by £ 96,000 through “back office efficiency”. The cut is not expected to have any impact on learners, but members have requested that the service be available year round.

Members also urged caution over sexual reproductive health and contraceptive cuts – £ 250,000 – and called for action to be taken to address high levels of teenage pregnancies and abortions.

The council is also proposing a £ 4,279,000 cut through an adult welfare review. The committee took note of the review and expects to receive a report on it next month.

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