Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 07 Jan 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complained the Council failed to meet her son’s eligible social care needs and was responsible for his eviction from his council property. As a result, she was forced to let him live with her. Mrs X says this put her life in danger and caused her and her family unnecessary distress. She says Mr Z’s life was also put in danger because her house is not suitable to meet his needs. There was no fault in the Council’s actions.
- Mrs X complains that the Council:
- was responsible for her son (Mr Z’s) eviction from his council house property;
- failed to take appropriate action to rehouse Mr Z; and
- is failing to meet Mr Z’s eligible care needs.
What I have investigated
- I have investigated complaints b) and c) above. I explain the reasons why I have not investigated complaint a) at the end of this decision.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We cannot investigate a complaint about the start of court action or what happened in court. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5A, paragraph 1/3, as amended)
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I spoke to Mrs X and considered the information she provided.
- I made enquiries of the Council and considered its response and the information it provided. This included Mr Z’s care plan and his case records.
- I have written to Mrs X and the Council with my draft decision and considered their comments before I made my final decision.
What I found
- The relevant law is the Care Act 2014 and the Care and Support Statutory Guidance 2014.
- Sections 9 and 10 of the Care Act 2014 require local authorities to carry out an assessment for any adult with an appearance of need for care and support. The assessment must be of the adult’s needs and how they impact on their wellbeing and the results they want to achieve. It must also involve the individual and where suitable their carer or any other person they might want involved.
- Following a care assessment, councils will draw up a care plan. This should reflect the individual’s wishes, their needs and aspirations and what is important to them, where this is reasonable.
Areas of responsibility
- Mr Z lives in an area where there is a two-tier local authority system. This means the County Council is responsible for proving adult social care. Responsibility for housing lies with the Borough Council.
- This complaint is about the County Council only.
- Mr Z is around 40 years old. He has chronic epilepsy and a mental health illness. He has a history of aggressive behaviour towards others, including family members.
- Mr Z has a support worker whom he meets on a weekly basis and a County Council social worker.
- Mr Z lived in a Borough Council property. In June 2017 the Borough Council informed Mr Z that it had started proceedings to evict him. This was because Mr Z had caused a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour and violence towards neighbours and other people.
- In November 2017, Mr Z contacted his social worker and said he was lonely and feeling isolated. The social worker suggested a meeting to discuss setting up a care plan. Mr Z agreed.
- On 12 January 2018, Mr Z’s court case to issue a notice to evict him was adjourned until February for reports to be completed.
- On 19 January, the social worker carried out Mr Z’s care assessment. The assessment showed that Mr Z had several unmet eligible needs including medication management. In addition, when Mr Z had a severe epileptic fit, this was debilitating and he would have additional unmet eligible needs for a number of hours afterwards.
- The social worker drew up a care plan. This stated Mr Z had capacity and had “instructed [the social worker] that under no circumstances would he consider supported living or a package of care”. The care plan recorded Mr Z’s strong wish to remain independent.
- On 24 January, Mr Z was arrested after assaulting a neighbour where he lived. The social worker visited Mr Z and the case notes record the social worker told Mr Z that he would start to look at contingency plans to rehouse Mr Z because it was likely he would be evicted following his court case in February.
- On the same day, the social worker discussed a referral to an NHS brain injury service with Mr Z. The case notes record Mr Z “wished to remain independent and that he was not interested in receiving help from any brain injury service”.
- On 26 January, the social worker visited Mr Z and again suggested a referral to a brain injury service. Mr Z declined a second time because he said he was afraid of losing his independence. Later that day, the social worker contacted a local housing association specialising in providing accommodation for vulnerable people (Group H). Group H said it would accept an application for Mr Z. The social worker submitted Mr Z’s application at the beginning of February.
- On 8 February, the social worker spoke to the Borough Council for advice about possible housing for Mr Z if he was evicted from his current home. The Borough Council stated Mr Z would be eligible for a homeless person’s assessment but the Council would have no duty to offer him another tenancy or provide him with housing because he had made himself intentionally homeless through his actions. The Borough Council suggested another housing association (Group J).
- The social worker contacted Group J. Group J informed him it did not consider Mr Z was suitable as a tenant because he would require a reference from the Borough Council which was in the process of evicting him.
- On 21 February, Mr Z informed his social worker that the Borough Council had an order for possession and he had to leave his property at the beginning of May.
- The social worker pursued Mr Z’s housing application with Group H. On 2 March he was told Group H would not accept Mr Z as a possible tenant.
- The social worker tried a third housing association but it refused to accept an application from Mr Z.
- The social worker then asked for advice from an organisation which had experience of housing hard to place individuals. The case notes record that the organisation told the social worker he had explored all the possible options available in Mr Z’s locality. It therefore could not provide any further suggestions.
- On 5 March, the social worker visited Mr Z. The case notes record Mr Z agreed to allow the Council to try to find him supported accommodation. Previously, Mr Z had refused this type of accommodation.
- On 7 March, the case notes record Mr Z said he would not accept a care package or a personal assistant to support him.
- On 19 March, the social worker was contacted by another social worker who said Mr Z could be eligible for accommodation run by two groups, one operating around 15 miles from where Mr X and his mother lived, and the other about 25 miles away. However, Mrs X and Mr Z both thought these locations were too far away. This was because Mrs X helped Mr Z on a daily basis to take his medications and Mr Z would not consider any care package. The social worker told Mr Z he had run out of suggestions.
- Mrs X complained to the Council. She said that the Council had:
- forced Mr Z into being evicted. As a result, she had to take him into her home which was unsuitable for him because there was no room;
- failed to support him;
- failed to find Mr Z suitable accommodation; and
- deliberately made Mr Z unstable since 2015.
- Mr Z’s social worker had tried to find him accommodation since receiving the eviction notice and had met him on a regular basis. However, Mr Z’s refusal to accept a care package and move out of the immediate area meant that options were limited; and
- Mr Z was supported on a regular basis by his social worker and support worker. Mr Z had been offered a care package and supported living which he had refused and he also would not move out of the area which limited his options. There was no evidence the Council had deliberately made Mr Z unstable.
Complaint to the Ombudsman
- Mrs X complained to the Ombudsman on behalf of herself and Mr Z. In addition to her complaints to the Council, Mrs X complained she had been forced to act as Mr Z’s carer because the Council had not provided the support Mr Z needed. Mrs X said she did not want to be Mr Z’s carer and that is why she had always refused the Council’s offer of a carer’s assessment.
- Mrs X also said her home was unsuitable for Mr Z because of his epilepsy. The rooms were too small so Mr Z was in danger of hitting walls and furniture during a fit, it was unsafe for him to use the stairs and he needed a special walk-in shower. Mr Z also had a history of being violent to his family and they were all afraid of his behaviour.
- In response to my enquiries, the Council said that:
"[Mr Z] moved in with his mother in April, ahead of the planned eviction on the 9 May. The arrangement soon proved unsatisfactory to both Mr Z and his parents… and the atmosphere in the house became increasingly hostile, with Mrs X and her family feeling vulnerable and threatened. Mr Z's behaviour became increasingly challenging and he was arrested and charged on 2 separate occasions, once for breach of the peace, and on a second occasion for 'assault by beating' and damage to property. At a court hearing on the 31 August 2018 Mr Z was handed a 24 month conditional discharge... The situation began to improve significantly when [the Borough Council] reversed its decision to not rehouse Mr Z and, on the 20 September 2018, Mr Z moved into temporary accommodation. On 25 October 2018, Mr Z was provided with a new, permanent tenancy arranged with help from [the Borough Council] ... I have considered with Mr Z and Mrs X the option of a care package, with regular weekly support to engage in social activities; presently this is not something Mr Z wishes to consider".
- During my investigation, Mrs X has stated she remains unhappy about the amount of involvement she has in her son’s life because she is not his official carer.
- During the period covered by my investigation, Mr Z’s case notes show the Council had regular contact with him. The Council also took appropriate and timely steps to identify suitable accommodation for Mr Z once it became apparent it was likely he would be evicted. However, the Council was hampered by Mr Z’s history of violence, the eviction notice and because Mr Z would only consider accommodation near his mother’s home. When the Council had exhausted all possible options for that locality and suggested locations further away, Mr Z and Mrs X rejected these suggestions.
- The Council has a duty to carry out an assessment for any adult with an appearance of need for care and support. The Council carried out an assessment for Mr Z and identified eligible needs. However, Mr Z refused to accept a care package or to consider supported accommodation.
- Mr Z had strong views about where he wanted to live and the care package he wanted to receive. The law says the Council must respect wishes made with capacity even if they seemed unwise. Mr Z was deemed to have capacity to make decisions and to take responsibility for them. The Council acted in line with the law when it respected his wishes. There was no fault in the Council’s actions.
- Mrs X says the Council forced her to house Mr Z when he was faced with eviction. She said her house was unsuitable for Mr Z’s needs and she and her family were afraid of him. She also says she was forced to be Mr Z’s carer because the Council failed to put the right support package in place. I do not agree. Mrs X could have refused to let Mr Z live with her or to act as his carer. However, she chose to provide him with accommodation. This was her decision to make and I cannot hold the Council responsible for it. There was no fault in the Council’s actions.
- There was no fault in the Council’s actions. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- I did not investigate Mrs X’s complaint that the Council’s actions resulted in Mr Z being evicted from his council home. This is because these actions were taken by the local Borough Council and I have investigated the actions of the County Council. In addition, the decision to evict Mr Z was taken in court and we cannot investigate a complaint about what happened in court.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman