Hello, my name is Miriam and I work for Mencap’s information and advice team.
It’s good to hear that your son enjoys going to the respite service, and I’m sure you’re very worried about him losing contact with his friends.
I thought it might be useful to post what the government guidance says about this issue. Point 12.57 should be of particular interest:
12.55 As a general rule, direct payments should not be used to pay for local authority-provided services from the ‘home’ local authority. Where a person wishes to receive care and support from their local authority, it should be easier and less burdensome to provide the service direct to the person. This will also avoid possible conflicts of interest where the local authority is providing the direct payment, but also promoting their services for people to purchase.
12.56 There may be cases where the local authority exercises discretion to provide care and support by receiving a direct payment amount, for example this could be where a person who is using direct payments wants to make a one-off purchase from the local authority such as a place in day care. In these cases, the local authority should take into account the wishes of the person requiring care and support when making a decision. In one off cases such as these, it may be less burdensome to accept the direct payment amount, rather than providing the service and then reducing the personal budget and direct payment accordingly.
12.57 This does not preclude people from using their direct payment to purchase care and support from a different local authority. For example, a person may live close to authority boundaries and another local authority could provide a particular service that their ‘home’ authority does not provide.
You can have a look at the full text of the guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-act-statutory-guidance/care-and-support-statutory-guidance.
If your son’s social worker raises objections, you could draw their attention to this guidance. If you’d like to talk this through, you can always call Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111.
Let us know how you get on!