Council admits care could be given to those ineligible because of their immigration status
PUBLISHED: 05:30 21 May 2020
A Suffolk council has admitted that people could be receiving council-funded care worth tens of thousands of pounds which they are not eligible for because of their immigration status.
In a report published for Suffolk County Council’s audit committee it was found that the authority was not checking and recording the nationality of all care patients, meaning some of those it is paying for care for may not be eligible.
According to the report, Suffolk Observatory recorded 11% of Suffolk’s population being non-UK nationals in 2017/18, which if applied to people in Suffolk receiving residential care or care in their homes could be up to 365 people.
The report said it was “impossible to know” if this was the case, but added: “The financial consequences are potentially significant, particularly if the council is paying for residential care for an ineligible person.
“Age UK states that average care home places are £600 per week and £800 a week for a nursing home, which could result in costs of £30k to £40k per person per year.”
However, Richard Hart, principal auditor warned that those figures were extrapolated and should be treated with extreme caution.
He said: “The opinion of no assurance was given simply because we do not know those people who are not entitled to our care that are within our customer base.
“This is where customers from abroad do not qualify to receive care. To enable this to be understood the council would need to identify the nationality of all their customers and this has not been done consistently over the years.
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“Therefore the council could be providing services which it is not required to do so.
“We have provided some statistics to quantify this but these need to be taken with extreme caution. They do extrapolate to a large figure but we really do not know.
“It could be zero customers receiving services they are not entitled to or it could be any number between that and what we have extrapolated it to.”
The report revealed that the issue had been considered as long ago as May 2016, although since September 2019 social workers have been asked to check nationality and immigration status on their forms.
A review programme of existing people in the system is also being developed which means that most will be addressed over the next two years.
A county council spokeswoman added: “The case management system used by adult and community services in Suffolk since 2018 supports practitioners to record a person’s nationality or immigration status; and regular guidance is issued to support practitioners with this. Senior managers continue to monitor the progress through reporting mechanisms.”
Councillor Sarah Adams, leader of the opposition Labour group at the council, raised concerns on the impact of this with the Brexit deadline looming this December.
She said: “The key concern for me is that we make sure everyone who needs it has been granted settled or pre-settled status before the UK leaves the EU in December. Up to now, Suffolk County Council has done little to ensure that people who currently receive our services have had this resolved.
“This is not just my opinion - according to the council’s audit committee, not enough has been done to check the immigration status of people accessing services and, if we fail to ensure that EU citizens have been granted settled status, they may have no right to live, work or receive care here in Suffolk.
“I do sympathise with the council when, during a period where they are desperately trying to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, they are having to contend with a Government hell bent on pushing through Brexit by the end of the year, no matter the social or economic cost. Local authorities are being given little time or additional funding in order to prepare - the consequences could be dire.”
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