London Borough of Waltham Forest (18 006 436)

Category : Adult care services > Assessment and care plan

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 26 Feb 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complained about the Council’s delay carrying out a carer’s assessment for him. He also complained the Council failed to tell him the outcome of the assessment once it was carried out. The Ombudsman finds the Council was at fault and this caused Mr X uncertainty and frustration over whether he had missed out on potential support. The Council has agreed to apologise and pay Mr X £100.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complained that he asked the Council for a carer’s assessment on a number of occasions from June 2016 and the Council failed to carry one out until
    June 2018. He also complained the Council did not tell him the outcome of the assessment. Mr X says coping with and caring for his mother without any support has caused him stress, distress and anxiety.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended) Because of this restriction, although Mr X has concerns going back to June 2016, I have only investigated the period January 2017 – July 2018.
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered information from:
    • Mr X’s complaint and further correspondence with him; and
    • the Council’s responses to my enquiries.
  2. I gave Mr X and the Council the opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision. I took into account the comments received before making this final decision.

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Legal background

  1. Section 10 of the Care Act 2014 requires that, if it appears to the Council that a carer may have current or future needs for support, the Council must carry out a carer’s assessment.

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What I found

  1. Mr X lived with his mother, Mrs C, in Mrs C’s home. He had a full time job. In
    June 2016 Mrs C was discharged from a stay in hospital and had a daily care package at home provided by a care agency.
  2. Mr X asked the Council for a carer’s assessment after his mother’s return home. A Council officer decided the Council could carry out an assessment once Mr X had returned from a planned period away from home. The Council’s records do not show whether the Council told Mr X of this decision. Neither the Council nor
    Mr X acted to start an assessment on Mr X’s return.

January 2017 – August 2017

  1. In January 2017 Mrs C was living at home with a package of care. Carers visited twice a day. Carers also provided two hours a week help with shopping and household chores.
  2. Mrs C spent a month in hospital in February to March 2017. At the end of February 2017 the Council reassessed Mrs C’s needs for care when she left hospital. The Council decided Mrs C should have an increased care package. Carers were to visit four times a day to provide personal care and meals.
  3. The records of the reassessment say Mr X was involved with the assessment. The Council’s records show Mr X’s involvement consisted of a discussion about a need for increased care. The Council has no records of Mr X’s view of how much support he provided Mrs C. The assessment is based on Mrs C’s views of the support she received from family or friends. The document summarises the impact of caring on Mrs C’s main carer’s independence was “Little/no restriction on activities”. It does not specifically refer to Mr X. The Council has no record of:
    • referring to Mr X’s previous request for a carer’s assessment;
    • advising Mr X how he could ask for a carer’s assessment; or
    • offering Mr X a carer’s assessment.
  4. The Council now says it should have offered a carer’s assessment during the reassessment process or advised Mr X how he could ask for one in future.
  5. Mrs C went home in March 2017. In May 2017 the Council reviewed Mrs C’s care package. The Council involved Mr X’s brother in the review but did not include
    Mr X.
  6. The outcome of the review was that Mrs C’s care package should remain the same.
  7. Mrs C continued to live at home with a daily care package until August 2017. In August 2017 Mrs C went into hospital again. Since August 2017 Mrs C was at home for a total of four days in March 2018 when the hospital discharged her home twice. After each discharge she was admitted back to hospital. For the rest of the period after August 2017 Mrs C has been in residential care or hospital. She is currently in long term residential care.

June 2018 – September 2018

  1. In June 2018 Mr X complained to the Council that on several occasions since 2016 he had requested a carer’s assessment but not had one. He asked the Council to complete a carer’s assessment and compensate him for its failure to do so earlier.
  2. In mid June 2018 Mrs C moved into a new residential care home. Two days after that a Council officer carried out a carer’s assessment for Mr X. At the time it was not clear whether Mrs C would stay in the care home or move back to her own home. So for the carer’s assessment the assessor recorded Mr X’s view about how caring for Mrs C affected him when she was at home. Mr X said his caring role had caused significant deterioration in his physical and mental health and significant restrictions in other areas of his life.
  3. After the assessment the Council did not contact Mr X about the outcome.
  4. Mrs C’s stay at the care home became permanent at the end of July 2018. The Council says this meant Mr X no longer met the Council’s criteria to be considered his mother’s carer. Her care home now meets almost all Mrs C’s needs. The Council did not tell Mr X how Mrs C becoming a permanent care home resident affected his carer’s assessment. It now apologises for not doing so.
  5. The assessor next contacted Mr X at the end of September 2018 by letter. The letter said it enclosed Mr X’s carer’s support plan and it apologised for the delay in sending the plan to him. The carer’s support plan contains a summary of Mr X’s views expressed at the assessment but does not set out any support to be provided. The Council says its system produced the support plan document but the Council could not put any support in place because Mrs C was no longer living at home.

Findings

  1. Of the 19 months from January 2017 and July 2018 Mrs C lived at home for
    6½ months – one month in January 2017 and 5½ months from March to
    August 2017. Although she received support from a care agency and Mr X worked full time, Mr X still provided some support to his mother when she was at home.
  2. Apart from four days in March 2018 Mrs C has not lived at home since
    August 2017. While she is cared for elsewhere Mr X cannot be seen as her carer.
  3. Mr X could have asked again for a carer’s assessment at any point from when he returned home in 2016 to when Mrs C went into hospital in August 2017. But the Council should also have considered his role properly when it assessed and reviewed his mother’s needs.
  4. When reviewing Mrs C’s care needs in February 2017 the Council should have considered whether Mr X might have support needs as his mother’s carer. He lived with his mother and had asked for a carer’s assessment the previous year. These factors should have been taken into account. The Council should have offered a carer’s assessment or at least told Mr X how he could ask for one again if he still wanted one. The Council’s failure to do this was fault.
  5. When the Council reviewed Mrs C’s needs in May 2017 it took no account of
    Mr X’s role in her care. Mr X’s brother was involved by then, but the Council should still have taken into account Mr X lived with his mother and had asked for a carer’s assessment the previous year. It should either have offered a carer’s assessment or told Mr X how he could ask for one again if he still wanted one. The Council’s failure to do this was fault.
  6. The Council’s faults in carrying out the assessment and review add to Mr X’s sense of uncertainty about what carer support he may have been entitled to.
  7. The Council was at fault in the way it dealt with Mr X’s carer’s assessment
    in 2018. The Council took three months to contact Mr X after the assessment. When the Council did contact Mr X it failed to explain the outcome of the assessment and how that outcome was affected by Mrs C’s then permanent stay in residential care. Mr X did not lose any opportunity of support because his mother was not at home. But the Council’s delay and lack of explanations caused him unnecessary frustration.

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Agreed action

  1. The Council has agreed that, within six weeks of the final decision, it will apologise to Mr X and pay him £100. The payment will acknowledge the sense of uncertainty and frustration caused to Mr X by the Council’s failure to handle properly:
    • the carer element of Mrs C’s assessment and review in 2017; and
    • Mr X’s carer’s assessment in 2018.

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Final decision

  1. I have now completed my investigation because the Council’s agreed action will remedy the injustice caused to Mr X by the Council’s fault.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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