A disabled man went almost two years without support he was assessed as needing because of a council’s failure to sign off his support plan. It was only after the man’s mother complained and he had been reassessed that he received funding to support his physical and learning disabilities, and mental health needs.
Essex Council has agreed to pay the man, known as Mr M, and his mother, Mrs M, £43,000 in compensation, after the Local Government Ombudsman found its actions has caused “significant injustice” to both of them.
The case also identified problems in the resource allocation system (RAS) in use at the time of Mr M’s assessment in December 2008 in capturing his need for psychological support and for prompts to carry out daily living tasks. The RAS generated an indicative budget of £9,000 for Mr M, who has mild paralysis on his left-hand side, chronic pain in his spine, mild learning disabilities, some mental health problems and was vulnerable to exploitation.
Funding panel delay
A social worker assessed him as having substantial needs, and thus eligible for support, but completed a support plan that cost £28,000 a year, well above his indicative budget. It then took seven months – until July 2009 – for the relevant funding panel, the physical impairment and learning disability confirmation board – to consider his case. It then referred his case to another panel, the adult social care and mental health board, because it was possible that Mr M would have to be funded from both the adult social care and mental health budgets. However, the council was unable to prove that this board considered Mr M’s case.
In July 2010, a year after the funding panel met, Mrs M complained; another social worker then reassessed Mr M, which resulted in a similar support plan to the first assessment. The physical impairment and learning disability confirmation board then agreed a £24,000 support package for him, which started in October 2010.
Social worker’s concerns
When interviewed by the ombudsman, the first social work to assess Mr M said she could not understand why her managers had not agreed funding, and that she also felt that the self-assessment questionnaire in use at the time did not effectively capture psychological support needs. It focused on needs for hands-on personal care, which Mr M did not need, as opposed to prompts and encouragement to undertake daily tasks, which he did need.
The ombudsman found no evidence of systemic delays in agreeing funding for care at Essex Council. Where the funding board cannot agree on a case, the council’s normal system is to set a deadline for the social worker to bring the case back. An analysis of 12 months’ data by the ombudsman found that cases were typically referred back to the board within a reasonable timescale and approved.
A spokesperson for the council said it apologised unreservedly for the distress caused to Mr M and his mother because of the “unacceptable” delays in providing him with support.
“We fully accept the recommendations of the ombudsman and since this occurred in 2008, as well as paying costs, we have made changes to our working practice including reviewing the self-assessment questionnaire and resource allocation system to ensure delays like this do not happen in the future,” the spokesperson added.Mithran Samuel is Community Care’s adults’ editor.