Cllr says audit problems over direct payments ‘mountain out of a molehill’
Council auditors want parents of children with disabilities to have a DBS check before they receive direct cash payments to pay for respite care or personal assistance.
Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts, Denbighshire council’s lead member for education told the authority’s governance and audit committee today (Wednesday) the auditors were making a “mountain out of a molehill”.
It came after a probe into payments to children needing extra support received a low assurance from investigators.
A follow-up study only gave the service a medium assurance rating because not all recommendations had been implemented.
It transpired only around 39 families qualified for the payments in the county but one of the issues auditors highlighted was people receiving cash should have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
In many cases this would be the parents of the children seeking respite care, personal assistance or money to take a child with difficulties swimming or trampolining.
Cllr Hilditch-Roberts said: “We as an authority cannot be asking parents to provide a DBS when they’re accepting payments.
“If we had an issue about the children’s care we wouldn’t allow them to be in their care.
“This is an issue where we are making a mountain out of a molehill.
“For some of these families it’s a couple of payments, sometimes, just when in need.
“These payments are made for all sorts of things, some for respite or nursery provision.
“For some it just for a couple of hours a week but it’s a range of things to support that family.”
The report said only families of children with disabilities were currently given direct payments and the current IT used was not suitable, as sometimes payments were duplicated on the system.
However a new system would be in place by 2023, so the department would continue with the IT it had for now.
Because a new Direct Payment Support Service is being set up with Conwy county council current practice is to “spot purchase for services”, which was sometimes breaking contract procedure rules according to auditors.
The audit follow-up report said this was a “major risk”. It added: “Contract value above £25k requires a minimum completive process be undertaken through advertising on Sell2Wales via the council’s electronic procurement system with associated tendering documentation and sustainability assessment.”
Chief internal auditor Lisa Lovegrove said direct payments for children had been assessed because the team was already checking direct payments for adults.
She added: “We picked up the area of direct payments because it is an area vulnerable to fraud.
“It’s not to try and put too much bureaucracy in the way of these payments, it’s just to manage some risks and we bear in mind we need to be proportionate with that.”
By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter
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