The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has stated that councils must meet all the assessed eligible care needs of service users after investigating Northamptonshire County Council’s treatment of a profoundly deaf man.
In February 2016 Northamptonshire assessed the man – who also has anxiety, severe sleep apnoea and other mental health needs – as needing both day- and night-time support. But his care package only offered a personal assistant from 10pm to 8am.
The council also advised the man that if he wanted day time support it would reduce his night-time care. The man and his parents subsequently spent more than £17,000 on day time care.
Northamptonshire council told the ombudsman it did not recognise day- and night-time sleep monitoring due to sleep apnoea as an eligible care need, but had allowed the man to spend his personal budget on night-time support because he agreed it would enable him to meet his day time needs. The man denies agreeing this.
The ombudsman’s report on the case concluded that the council was a fault. It found that the council had “clearly reached and documented a decision that Mr X had eligible needs in both the daytime and at night” in his care and support plan.
“While the council sought to meet Mr X’s ‘priority’ need, service users should not be asked to choose which needs the council should meet,” said the report. “The council has a duty to meet all eligible needs.”
The ombudsman said the council should pay £1,100 compensation to the man and his family as well as reimburse the £17,444 they spent on private day care.
It also said the council should fund night and day care for the man until an independent reassessment or change in needs occurs. The council should also ensure its social workers are trained in assessing people who are deaf and have other complex needs.
Acceptance of fault
“People should not be put in the position of having to pick and choose which areas of their life are supported and which neglected,” said ombudsman Michael King.
“When an assessment is done and essential care needs are identified, it’s not an option to prioritise the support and discard any that do not suit the council.”
In April 2017 Northamptonshire council initially accepted it was at fault but disputed the amount to be reimbursed.
But it then withdrew its acceptance of fault in August 2017 on the grounds that it does not accept the care and support plan for the man identified day- and night-time eligible care needs.
Matter of urgency
Instead the council offered the man a £250 goodwill payment on the basis that he may not have fully understood the situation.
King said: “I am particularly disappointed Northamptonshire council has reneged on its acceptance of fault, and left the family without support for so much longer than if they had put in place earlier the remedy I recommended.
“I now call on it to consider my report as a matter of urgency and put in place all the care this man and his family need.”
Evidence of expenditure
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “In the interests of balancing the provision of quality services against ensuring taxpayers’ money is spent correctly, we are challenging a number of aspects of the ombudsman’s recommendations.
“This includes issues around the private care purchased by the service user, which was an informal care arrangement and for which he has been unable to adequately evidence this expenditure.
“That said, we are committed to working with the service user and his family to ensure that an up-to-date assessment of his needs can take place and that these assessed needs are met in accordance with our eligibility criteria for services.”