How to challenge your local authority over your care

If you disagree with your local authority’s decision not to pay for your care services – or you don’t think you’ve been offered enough support to meet your needs – you need to speak out.

Know your rights

Taking on your local council can seem daunting but if you’re planning to challenge a decision, it will help your confidence to know a few basic things first.

  • You have the legal right to a free care-needs assessment – your local authority can’t just refuse because they don’t think you qualify for support.
  • You can ask for a reassessment if you think your circumstances have changed.
  • Every local authority has its own eligibility criteria for what support you can and cannot receive, but they still have to comply with government guidelines.
  • Your local authority has a legal duty to meet your eligible care needs – it’s not enough to say they can’t afford them.

Challenging your care-needs assessment

Just because the assessment is carried out by a health or social care expert, with help perhaps from your GP, you don’t have to stick by their decision. For example if you have an illness or a disability, they might have assessed you on a ‘good’ day.

If you disagree with a decision not to provide support, or you don’t think the care package being offered is enough to meet your needs, follow the steps below to challenge it.

Challenging your financial assessment

Top tip

Calculating the value of assets for means-test purposes can be complex, so many people get independent legal or financial advice before challenging a decision.

There are very strict rules about how much you should pay for long-term care, and many local authorities have arrangements that are more generous than the guidelines set out by government. Still, if you think your assets have been overvalued or you’re being asked to pay for more than you should, you can ask for a review of your case.

How to challenge a decision – step by step

Step 1 – Do your research

Find out about the complaints procedure for your local authority (or your local Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland). The details will be on their website. It’s also worth taking a look at their eligibility criteria for long-term care services, and their charging policy.

Step 2 – Contact your local authority or trust

Your local authority or trust has a legal duty to give you a written explanation of their decision. Take time to read it, and if you think it’s unfair you can ask for your case to be reassessed. There may simply have been a failure in communication or a misunderstanding that can be easily rectified.

Step 3 – Get help

If you need help with a complaint, contact your local councillor, the Citizens Advice Bureau or local disability or support groups to see if they’ll help you put your case forward.

Step 4 – Ask for an independent review

If you’re still not happy, you can ask your local authority or trust to arrange an independent review of your case. To ensure fairness, you’ll be encouraged to be involved at every stage of the review. However, if you’re not able, you can ask someone else – a family member, care provider or other representative – to oversee things on your behalf.

Step 5 – Take your complaint to the Ombudsman

If you need to, you can seek legal advice or take your complaint to the relevant local government ombudsman.