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Using Personal Budgets For Pleasure

August 15, 2010

I’m not quite sure what to think of this article:

One local authority is using its budget to pay for the services of a prostitute in Amsterdam, while others have said visits to lap dancing clubs are permissible under new policies which transfer funds directly to those who receive care from social services.

Holidays abroad, subscriptions for internet dating and driving lessons have all been funded by the taxpayer under a national initiative introduced by the last Government.

The £520 million scheme promised to give elderly people and those with disabilities more control over the care they received, by passing on cash so individuals could choose the services they needed, such as home help, or mobility aids.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph can disclose that exotic holidays, internet dating subscriptions and adventure breaks, as well as visits to sex workers and lap dancing clubs have been permitted under the system.

One local authority has agreed a care plan including payment for a 21-year-old with learning disabilities to have sex with a prostitute in Amsterdam next month.

His social worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said social services were there to identify and meet the needs of their clients – which, in the case of an angry and frustrated young man, meant paying for sex.

Another care worker said staff at her council had been told that trips to lap dancing clubs could be funded, if it could be argued that it would help the “mental and physical well being” of their client.

In response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, four local authorities describe themselves as “condoning” the payment of sex workers by disabled clients, using money transferred from their budgets.

Other councils said they took no moral judgement about the use of funds, but said care money could be spent on anything, as long as it was not illegal.

Paying for sex is not against the law but soliciting sexual services, kerb crawling and paying for sex with women who have been coerced into prostitution is.

In Greater Manchester and Norfolk, councils say payments to social care clients can be used to pay for internet dating subscriptions.

In the course of 12 months, one man with mental health problems from Norwich received a holiday in Tunisia, a subscription to an internet dating site, driving lessons, and expensive art materials.

Department of Health documents describe how the man received the funding on top of his state benefits, after suffering from psychiatric problems when his wife asked for a divorce.

In the report on his case, the man says he needed “some time out, some rest and a change of scenery” after suffering marital problems and says the break in Tunisia with a friend was cheaper than a week in institutional care.

Trafford council, in Greater Manchester, says its budgets cannot be spent on anything illegal, or anything that would bring the council into disrepute. It suggests personal budgets could be used for holidays, adventure breaks, subscriptions to dating agencies, horse riding or to buy a pet.

The FOI survey, by The Outsiders and TLC Trusts – two groups which campaign for the sexual rights of people with disabilities – found most local authorities said they did not “condone” transfer of their funds to pay for sex.

But of 121 councils who responded, 97 per cent said they had no policy on the topic, allowing discretion for social workers and junior managers about how to manage such requests.

Several councils contacted by this newspaper said they did not know if they had ever funded visits by disabled people to sex workers.

Stockton-on-Tees borough council said it did not think it had funded sex workers for clients. A spokesman said people “in receipt of our care can do whatever they wish, though we would not condone or be involved in anything illegal”.

A spokeswoman for Knowsley council said requests for funding to access sexual services would be “looked at on a case by case nature”.

Doncaster council said that so far it had not funded any requests for sexual services, but said future decisions would depends on the needs of the individual.

Norfolk county council said it did not believe it had funded any visits to sex workers, but Di Croot, assistant team manager for learning disabilities in North Norfolk said such requests would be looked on “favourably” with staff encouraged to be “as free thinking as possible” about how to ensure all the needs of clients were met.

Zoe Grace Cozens, who wrote the council’s policy on learning disability and sexuality, said the authority also had a duty of care to ensure that those with learning disabilities were not being exploited financially, if they paid for prostitutes from their own money.

“That could mean care workers phoning to check what rate sex workers were charging,” she added.

Belinda Schwer, a legal consultant who advises councils, said many local authorities agreed support plans for clients which did not specify how funds would be used, once they passed out of their hands.

“From what I have seen, at least one quarter of local authorities are doing support plans which only state what outcome should be achieved – not which services are being employed.”

In the case of someone given funds to go to a sex worker, such documents might set out an intended emotional outcome, rather than the means by which it was achieved, she suggested. “If you have got a happy and calm person who was previously frustrated and angry, that might achieve a good outcome, but the case law says councils should be setting out which services are being used,” she said.

Neil Coyle, director of policy at Disability Alliance, said most people with disabilities did not want or expect the state to pay for sexual services.

He said: “When people go to councils for help, they are looking for essential services to maintain some level of dignified existence – help to dress and wash. Given that councils have been drawing the most basic support from those who need it, I do not think this is the biggest concern of people with disabilities.”

Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability network Radar, said the desire for sexual relations was a matter of human rights, meaning cases involving payments should be carefully examined on a “case by case” basis.

Matthew Elliot, chief executive of The Taxpayers’ Alliance said it was “deeply worrying” that public money had been spent on the services of prostitutes, lapdancing clubs and to pay for holidays.

He said: “Many taxpayers will be appalled and offended that money intended for social care has been used in this way. What’s more, it’s deeply worrying that this scheme has been so vulnerable to these abuses. It’s essential that where public funds are involved, there are the sort of checks and balances in place that prevent money being wasted in this way”.

A small part of me can understand what Matthew Elliot is saying. He is, after all, hopefully not disabled. To him and many other able bodied taxpayers, ‘social care’ means only driving, washing, bathing, cooking etc. The thought that disabled people actually want a social life too, or that we actually understand what romance and sex are, is probably too surprising for him to have twice.

However, another, bigger part of me agrees with Liz Sayce’s view. As long as the disabled person is able to understand exactly what is going on, why should they not be allowed to use their personal budgets for anything they like? As I’ve said before on Same Difference, disabled people have all the same romantic feelings as everyone else. If they wish to act on these feelings, why shouldn’t they? They can’t help having their disability. They can’t help the fact that their disability stops them working and makes them live on state benefits, or as mainstreamers prefer to call it, ‘taxpayers’ money.’ If they were able to earn and wanted to go to Amsterdam, who would stop them?

If one of the ‘many taxpayers’ that Matthew Elliot refers to became disabled tomorrow, would their sexual feelings suddenly disappear? I sincerely doubt it- nor would anyone expect them to. If they had a disabled child who became a teenager and expressed romantic and sexual feelings, would they then be ‘appalled and offended’ and think twice about spending that child’s state benefits for anything that gave their child pleasure? I sincerely hope not.

Have these ‘many taxpayers’ ever thought that if more people considered having romantic relationships with disabled people, maybe then we wouldn’t need to consider paying for our romantic pleasure at all!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Claymore permalink
    March 22, 2012 8:42 pm

    Despicable. Placing disabled legal minors on birth control as a measure for their safety may be permissible under certain circumstances (note the “may” and of course you have to consider the impact of side effects in each individual case, and to be clear I am talking only about if the decision is made by others than the teenager themself, I fully support the right of all legal minors, disabled or otherwise, to have information about, to access, and to use birth control, condoms, and abortion services if they so choose), but sterilisation? Eugenics, that’s what it is. I am disabled and do not want to have children (I may choose to get sterilised, I’ve been thinking about it for a while), but I can well understand how horrific a thing forced sterilisation is, disabled people own their bodies, and they are no less or more entitled to reproduce than anyone else is (I put it in these terms because no-one has the right to force someone else to remain pregnant for them so they can reproduce).

  2. Claymore permalink
    March 22, 2012 8:44 pm

    Sorry, I meant to post that comment under the post “Should DisAbled Girls Be Sterilised?”, my mistake! If it’s not too much trouble, can it be moved to the correct place?

  3. samedifference1 permalink*
    March 22, 2012 11:14 pm

    Claymore: Unfortunately there is no function to move comments to another post. If you wish to copy and paste your first comment into the right place, I would be happy to delete it from here.

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