Cheshire East Council has been sanctioned by the Local Government Ombudsman for failing to consider a disabled man’s circumstances when refusing him care payments.
The young man was a full time university student when he sustained a major spinal injury, leaving him requiring a high level of care.
Working time regulations
The council assessed him as needing 56 hours a week care and a further 20 hours a week to allow him to engage in social activities. But Cheshire East refused to pay his mother more than 48 hours a week, citing working time regulations.
The council “mistakenly” used the regulations to refuse direct payments they assessed the man as needing, because he wanted to use them to pay his mother for providing his round-the-clock care, according to the ombudsman.
Working time regulations state employees should not work more than 48 hours a week unless they choose to, but both the man and his mother wanted her to carry out his day-to-day care, arguing it was different to more formal employment since it would be carried out at home.
Balancing risk and choice
The ombudsman recommended councils should properly consider individual circumstances when they balance people’s choice to be cared for by a family member against the risk to their carer of working long hours.
The Local Government Ombudsman, Jane Martin, said: “While we would not normally criticise a council for considering the risks of employing a family member as a carer or working unreasonable hours, the absence of a risk assessment or detailed discussion in this case casts doubt on the council’s decision.”
The ombudsman recommended the council should take a number of steps to remedy the situation:
- The council should apologise to the family and review a number of its procedures
- It should reconsider its decision, taking into account government guidance on balancing choice and risk. It should discuss and update the man’s support plan and direct payment agreement to include his social hours, and share it with him
- The councils should pay the mother the equivalent cost of the 76 hours per week care she has provided from 6 January 2014 until the date it retakes its decision about the number of hours her son may employ her
- It should also pay the man £250 and his mother a further £350 in recognition of the distress caused by the decision, and the time and trouble taken in bringing the complaint to the local government ombudsman
The council has agreed to carry out these recommendations.