A council cut a man’s care hours without showing how it would subsequently be able to meet his eligible needs, an investigation has found.
Birmingham council used a resource allocation tool to determine that Mr S needed 78 hours of care, including shared waking night support with his supported living housemates, down from 91 hours plus sleep-in nights shared with another resident.
However, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found that in making the change, in September 2020, the council did not make clear how the shared waking nights could be used to meet his eligible needs, which was a fault.
Staff also initially refused to share the tool with Mr S’s father, Mr X, when he requested it, and did not address his concerns about the accuracy of the needs assessment, a lack of transparency with which the ombudsman also found fault.
In debt to provider
The watchdog also concluded that Birmingham council left the family in debt to Mr S’s care provider by not increasing his direct payment in line with a rise in the agency’s hourly rates in April 2019. This was despite the council having increased payments for care packages it commissioned directly.
The council only uprated Mr S’s direct payment in April 2020 and, despite initially saying it would backdate payments to May 2019, it then refused to do so.
The ombudsman found that the debt was caused in part by the fact it took the authority 16 months, from May 2019 to September 2020, to complete a reassessment of his needs. As a result his 91-hour package, with the uprated hourly rate, remained in place but with a direct payment that was insufficient to fund it.
Despite Birmingham’s failings, the ombudsman found that Mr S, who has Down’s syndrome, did not miss out on support.
This was because he had been unable to do most of the activities in his original support plan because of the pandemic, and his care provider continued to meet his needs despite the family not being able to fund the package in full after the rise in hourly rates.
Birmingham has agreed to the watchdog’s recommendations to:
- Demonstrate how the hours it has assessed Mr S as needing can meet his needs and, if it cannot, review his care and backdate direct payments accordingly to the start of the revised package, in October 2020.
- Pay the care agency the debt accrued by the family between April 2019 and March 2020.
- Apologise to Mr X and Mr S’s mother, Mrs X, and pay them £250 in acknowledgement of the distress and fraustrations caused by the delays and faults in Mr S’s case.
- Remind staff of the need for transparency in determining support hours and to disclose how calculations have been made when requested.
- Review the reasons for delays in the case and implement service improvements off the back of this.
Birmingham also said it would conduct a thorough review of how and when direct payments are uprated in line with inflation or increases in the national minimum or living wages.
The council has been approached for comment.