A couple were put under ‘considerable and avoidable’ distress by failings at a local authority that led to a delay of over two years in giving them a personal budget, the Local Government Ombudsman has found.
The ombudsman found a ‘series of failings’ in the support provided to the couple by Kingston council’s social care and housing services. The ombudsman said that the council should apologise to the couple and pay them £10,000 in recognition of the distress caused.
Kingston council, which has three months to respond to the report, said an independent investigation it had commissioned into the “complex” case in 2010 had reached a different conclusion to the ombudsman’s report.
The couple received social care support for care needs linked to the man’s multiple sclerosis. They first requested a personal budget in May 2010 but, despite the man’s wife repeatedly contacting social services over a two-year period, a personal budget was not allocated until November 2012.
The delay was worsened by an “unacceptable failure of service” that led to the man being left with no allocated social worker for almost a year in July 2011, the ombudsman found. The man’s previous social worker had moved teams as part of a restructure of services.
The couple were also given the wrong housing priority and inappropriately charged council tax on their empty home after a worsening of the man’s symptoms meant they had to move from their own flat to specially adapted accommodation. They were also unexpectedly handed a bill of around £5,000 in unpaid care charges due to delays in the council carrying out financial assessments, the ombudsman found.
Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said the delay the couple had faced in securing a care budget was “wholly unacceptable”.
“The couple, and their representative, were put under considerable and avoidable distress and uncertainty by the council’s actions. I hope that the council can learn from the failings identified in the report and make the changes recommended to ensure that this cannot happen again,” she said.
A Kingston council spokesperson said: “Councillors will consider the ombudsman’s report and recommendations shortly and decide what steps to take. This was a complex situation where several council services were supporting the couple at the same time in an effort to help them to lead a normal family life.
The spokesperson added: “The council commissioned an independent investigation into the matter in 2010, which reached a different conclusion to the ombudsman.The council continues to improve and review the way it does things so that people get the best possible care and support.”