Disputes between authorities relating to cross-border placements

It is important to note that, wherever possible, disputes should be avoided. The likelihood of a dispute should be minimised if the authorities work closely together. Disputes are most likely due to poor communication or a lack of communication altogether.

But where a dispute does arise it is important to emphasise that any dispute must not prevent, interrupt, delay or otherwise adversely affect the provision of services to the individual

The four UK governments have agreed specific dispute resolution processes for cross-border placements. These are set out in the Care and Support (Cross-border Placements and Business Failure: Temporary Duty) (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2843) (the 2014 Regulations). The following is a summary of those regulations.

The dispute resolution process applies to any dispute about the application of paragraphs 1 to 4 of Schedule 1. This could include disputes arising in connection with situations where arrangements for cross-border accommodation have been made and there is a question about whether a particular authority had a duty to make those arrangements. 

The following is a summary of paragraphs 1 to 4 of Schedule 1 and the 2014 Regulations.

Who considers disputes?

The relevant department/ministers of the UK government and of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have responsibility for determining cross-border disputes. The following have legal responsibility for determining disputes (these are referred to as the ‘responsible person’): 

Thus, legal responsibility for determining a dispute will generally depend on which country the person is living in when the dispute is referred. If the person is living in the same country as that in which an authority which is party to a dispute is situated, the dispute will be determined by the relevant minister or department for that authority. For example, if the person has been placed by a Scottish local authority into a care home in England, and the dispute arises after the person has moved, the dispute should be referred to the secretary of state (in England).

In all other cases, the relevant department/ministers for the authorities who are in dispute will agree between themselves who is to determine the dispute. This will arise where the person is not living in the same country as an authority which is subject to the dispute.

The process for determining disputes

Before a dispute is referred

The authorities concerned must take a number of steps before referring a dispute. In the statutory guidance which accompanies the Care Act 2014, the authority which has accepted responsibility is referred to as ‘the lead authority’.

The lead authority must:

The authorities in dispute must:

When a dispute is referred

When a dispute is referred, the following must be provided to the responsible person:

The statement of facts must include:

The authorities in dispute may make legal submissions within 14 days of sending the referral, and if they do, they must send a copy to the other authorities in dispute, and provide evidence that they have done so.

The responsible person (i.e. minister or Northern Ireland department) to whom the dispute has been referred must:

If the responsible person (i.e. minister or Northern Ireland department) determining the dispute asks any of the authorities in dispute to provide further information, that authority must comply without delay.


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  • Cross-border placements