Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 08 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs A’s complaint about the Council’s decision to treat her mother’s property as capital for the purpose of charging for care. This is because it is unlikely he would find evidence of fault with the actions taken by the Council warranting investigation.
- The complainant who I shall call Mrs A says the Council should disregard her mothers, Mrs C’s, property in her financial assessment because she put it in a Protective Property Trust in February 2014 not knowing she would need care in 2016.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information and documentation provided by the Council and Mrs A’s representatives. I sent Mrs A a copy of my draft decision for comment.
What I found
- Mrs A says the Council should disregard Mrs C’s house in her financial assessment because she put the house in a Protective Property Trust on 24 February 2014.
- The Council says records show Mrs A contacted it on 27 February 2014 requesting respite care for Mrs C. Records show Mrs C had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
- The Council says records from 14 March 2014 confirm Mrs C’s health had improved and there was no need for care.
- The Council says Mrs A contacted it on 22 July 2014 requesting respite, home or permanent care for Mrs C. The Council assessed Mrs C as not having any eligible care needs.
- Mrs C moved into permanent residential care in 2016. The Council decided Mrs C could have reasonably foreseen the need for future care in 2014.
- Mrs A complained about the Council’s decision to include the property as a deprivation of assets. The Panel decided this was because the family had requested care and support at the time the property was put into a Trust and Mrs C had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, which is a predictable, progressive disease. The Council says there was a reasonable expectation that she would need permanent care in the future.
- The Council asked Mrs A to say why the property had been put into a Trust in 2014. Mrs A said the decision was taken to avoid a sideways disinheritance.
- Protective Property Trusts are usually entered into by a couple to ensure the induvial share of a jointly owned property is held in trust so their spouse/partner can remain living in the property in the event of their death but want their share of the property to be passed onto their beneficiaries. Thereby providing protection against a sideways disinheritance.
- Mrs A says the Protective Property Trust was not entered into for the purpose of avoiding care costs but to avoid a sideways disinheritance. The Council has considered this argument and rejected it as it is entitled to. It is not for the Ombudsman to comment on this view and could not say the decision taken by the Council is fault.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs A’s complaint. This is because it is unlikely he would find evidence of fault with the actions taken by the Council warranting investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman