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Cornwall Council (19 012 822)

Category : Adult care services > Charging

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 27 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman has discontinued its investigation into Mrs C’s complaint as there is an ongoing safeguarding enquiry into the same matter.

The complaint

  1. Mrs B complains on behalf of Mrs C. She says the Council’s decision to treat transfers of money from Mrs C to herself and her husband, Mr B, as a deprivation of assets is wrong and the Council should continue to pay for Mrs C’s care.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the documents that Mrs B has sent and have discussed the complaint with the Council and both sides’ comments on the draft decision.

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What I found

  1. The Care Act 2014, the Care and Support Statutory Guidance 2014 (updated 2017) and the Care and Support (Charging and Assessment of Resources) Regulations 2014 set out the Council’s duties towards adults who require care and support and its powers to charge. The Council also has its own policies.

Financial assessment

  1. If a council is planning to charge a person for the care and support it is providing, it must carry out a financial assessment of the person’s capital and income to decide how much they should contribute.

Capital threshold

  1. The upper capital limit is currently set at £23,250 and the lower limit at £14,250. A person with assets above the upper capital limit will, generally speaking, have to pay for their own care.

Deprivation of assets

  1. When undertaking or reviewing a financial assessment a local authority may identify circumstances that suggest that a person may have deliberately deprived themselves of assets in order to reduce the level of the contribution towards the cost of their care. This is called a deprivation of assets.

Safeguarding

  1. Since the Care Act 2014 councils have a statutory duty to safeguard adults. Section 42 of the Act says a local authority must make necessary enquiries if it reasonably suspects an adult who has care and support needs is, or is at risk of, being abused or neglected and unable to protect himself against the abuse or neglect or risk of it because of those needs.

What happened

  1. Mrs C is an elderly woman who lived at home with a package of care funded by the Council. The only capital she owned was her property, but, because she lived in the property, this was disregarded in the financial assessment.
  2. During a recent audit, the Council discovered that Mrs C had large sums in her bank account which were transferred to Mr and Mrs B. Mrs C had obtained the money by taking out an equity release loan against her property.
  3. The Council said that, as Mrs C now had capital which was in excess of £23,250, she was over the threshold for Council funding and would have to self-fund her care. The Council said that it would treat the transfer to Mr and Mrs B as a deprivation of assets.
  4. The Council also started a section 42 safeguarding investigation relating to Mrs C. The Council said it did so because Mrs C was a very vulnerable adult who may be at risk of financial abuse. The Council had concerns about the financial transactions, about Mrs C’s mental capacity to make financial decisions and about Mr and Mrs B’s involvement.
  5. Mr and Mrs B made a complaint on behalf of Mrs C. They said the Council should continue to fund Mrs C’s care as the transfer was not a deprivation of assets. The Council did not uphold the complaint.

Analysis

  1. The Council is carrying out a section 42 safeguarding enquiry into the financial transactions that are the subject of the complaint. Mrs C’s representative in the complaint is also the subject of the section 42 enquiry. I have therefore discontinued my investigation as it would not be appropriate for the Ombudsman to investigate this matter while the Council is carrying out its investigation.

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued the investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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