A local authority breached the Care Act when it failed to involve a woman in decisions about her care and wrongly stopped her direct payments, leaving her without care for about 19 months, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The ombudsman’s damning report said Calderdale council’s poor communication and failure to involve the woman, Miss Y, in decisions about her care “meant she did not have sufficient control over her care, caused significant distress to her and impeded her ability to make informed decisions about her care”.
In his report, the ombudsman identified a string of failings including:
- Pursuing the option of shared lives and considering a managed service in October 2018 without consulting Miss Y or her representative, Miss X.
- Failing to inform Miss Y or Miss X that Miss Y’s care provider, whom she paid for from her direct payments, had given notice on her care, in November 2018.
- Proposing to reduce Miss Y’s direct payments, which she also used to access social support, from 9.5 hours to 6 hours per week in December 2018 without “appropriate input” from Miss Y.
- Stopping Miss Y’s direct payments in January 2019, after her care provider gave notice, and failing to consider what impact this might have on her.
- Failing to consult Miss Y on other options for her care, meaning she was without support for about 19 months.
- Ignoring Miss Y’s request for a Care Act assessment in January 2019.
- Taking 13 months to carry out a Care Act assessment after Miss Y requested one in January 2019.
Calderdale has accepted the ombudsman’s judgment and agreed to its recommendations to apologise to the woman, pay her £500, reimburse her for the costs of support she wrongly paid for and review council procedures to ensure the failings do not recur.
In his report about the case, the ombudsman described the council’s communication with Miss Y as “poor”.
Under sections 25 and 27 of the Care Act, councils must involve the adult in preparing or reviewing their care and support plan, however, the ombudsman found that the council did not do involve Miss Y in the planning process.
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“The care and support planning in 2018 was not person-centred, which denied Miss Y control of her care, this also contributed to the communication difficulties between Miss Y and the council and caused distress to her,” the report said.
Miss Y left without care for about 19 months
Because the council had not properly carried out the care and support planning with appropriate input from Miss Y, its decision to reduce the direct payments in January 2019 seemed arbitrary, and there was no evidence to show why the council considered Miss Y’s needs met and outcomes achieved with the reduced package, the watchdog said.
In its response to the ombudsman, the council said it stopped the direct payments in January 2019 because Miss Y’s care provider had given notice and another care provider had not been identified.
However, the ombudsman found Miss Y had eligible needs and that without direct payments she could not employ other care providers.
As a result, Miss Y was denied care for approximately 19 months.
In January 2019, when Miss Y requested another Care Act assessment the ombudsman found no evidence the council acted on her request. The council told Miss X in May 2019 that it had allocated a social worker to undertake the assessment, but failed to carry out the assessment until February 2020.
Care Act assessment delay
The ombudsman reminded Calderdale it had a duty under the Care Act to carry out an assessment for anyone with the appearance of care and support needs and within a reasonable timeframe.
“The council can delegate the carrying out of the assessments to another organisation, in this case the mental health trust, but it cannot delegate its responsibility to ensure assessments are carried out within a reasonable timescale and to ensure a person’s social care needs are met,” the report said.
He noted the council had staffing issues and it did not have control over the delay by the mental health trust in allocating a social worker, but said the mental health trust was carrying out a function on behalf of the council so the delay in allocating a social worker was fault by Calderdale.
“A delay of 13 months in allocating a social worker and carrying out a Care Act assessment would be excessive in most circumstances, it was particularly excessive in Miss Y’s case as the council was aware she had eligible needs and no support in place.”
Council admits failings
A spokesperson for Calderdale council said that it fully accepted the findings and had implemented the remedies outlined by the ombudsman.
“We are committed to providing the best possible service to all our residents,” the spokesperson added. “We accept that we made mistakes in this case, and the service which this resident received did not meet our usual high standards.”