Northamptonshire Council has been slammed for failing to carry out required reviews of care packages and using unqualified staff to do so, in a damning report into two cases from the local government ombudsman today.
The ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, also found that the council had breached government guidance in charging the two service users for their care.
The council has accepted recommendations to compensate the two service users and their families to the tune of more than £3,000 in total.
In the first case, the council failed to properly review the care package of a man with Down’s syndrome, known as Mr DC, from 2001. Instead of care management staff reviewing his care, staff at the two council-run day centres he attended did so.
The report found the review “was largely descriptive” and failed to consider whether the current care package was meeting his needs or whether alternative services were required.
The ombudsman said it was concerning that care management staff failed to act when the lack of a up-to-date care plan was brought to their attention in 2009 during a financial assessment or on the death of the user’s mother, which led to his brother giving up work to become his full-time carer.
The council also failed to properly assess Mr DC for community care services. While it took into account the disability benefits he received, it did not also take account of expenditure related to his disability, as required by government guidance.
In the second case, Dr Martin found three failings in the handling of the care package of a woman, called Mrs F, who had multiple sclerosis.
The council firstly delayed and failed to respond to requests for a review and reassessment of her care package through a face-to-face meeting, which meant she did not have enough care to meet her needs for a period of time. Nor did it carry out an annual review, contrary to guidance under Fair Access to Care Services.
It also failed to properly assess her financial contribution and failed to ensure that her income remained above the minimum level of income support plus 25%, as required by government guidance.
Martin also warned that similar problems could arise under a new charging policy introduced by the council, which could lead to service users not having their circumstances fully taken into account.
She called on the council to ensure that reviews were undertaken by staff skilled in assessment with adequate care management authority and “reasonably independent” of the service users are receiving. It should also review its charging policy.
A council spokesperson said it accepted the recommendations and that it had taken steps to rectify the failings identified in its approach to charging service users.
“We will be reviewing the report to assess whether any further action needs to be taken in light of the recommendations,” the spokesperson added.
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