The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains the Council failed to deal properly with his request for an increase in his daughter’s direct payments. While accepting it has not dealt with this matter properly, the Council has also failed to pay an increase in the cost of the daughter’s live-in carer. It needs to correct this error and pay financial redress to Mr X for the time and trouble it has put him to.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, complains the Council failed to deal properly with his request for an increase in his daughter’s direct payments, taking 10 months to address the issue and, in implementing the increase, has failed to take account of other changes it had previously been notified of and is requesting repayment of an overpayment which would leave his daughter with no money in her direct payment account.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- 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, sections 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have:
- considered the complaint and the documents provided by Mr X;
- discussed the complaint with Mr X;
- considered the comments and documents the Council has provided in response to my enquiries; and
- shared a draft of this statement with Mr X and the Council, and invited comments for me to consider before making my final decision.
What I found
- The Council provides Miss X with a personal budget to pay for a live-in carer and another care agency to provide cover for the live-in carer’s breaks. Following a review of Miss X’s needs in December 2017, the Council gave her a personal budget of £1,138.86 a week (£922.28 for the live-in carer, £216.58 for cover). Miss X had £45,235.83 in her direct payment account. The Council reclaimed £37,447.54, leaving her with enough to pay for six weeks of care plus an outstanding invoice.
- When the Council assessed Miss X’s finances in February 2018, it decided she could afford to pay £86.17 a week towards her care. This increased to £89.96 in April 2018.
- The care agency providing cover for the live-in carer’s breaks told the Council it was increasing its charges from 9 April. The Council therefore wrote to Miss X saying it would increase her personal budget by £32.06 to £1,170.92 a week (i.e. £922.28 for the live-in carer and £248.64 for cover).
- Mr X complained to the Council on 27 August. He said he told it in June the cost of the live-in care would increase from 24 June, but the Council had taken no action over this.
- The Council acknowledged the complaint on 28 September.
- On 6 March 2019 the Council wrote to Mr X apologising for delays in resolving his daughter’s direct payments. It said her personal budget was £1,161.42 a week (£944.84 for the live-in care and £216.58 for cover), which it would backdate to 24 June 2018. This did not take account of the increase agreed and paid since April 2018.
- The Council wrote again to apologise on 13 March for the poor service it had provided. It put this down to staff changes but accepted this was not an excuse.
- On 20 March the Council invoiced Miss X for £4,674.53 due to an overpayment of her direct payment “as advised in the letter recently sent to you”. But its recent letter made no reference to an overpayment. Mr X has paid this money back to the Council from his daughter’s direct payment account.
- After he complained again, the Council wrote to Mr X on 15 April. It apologised for not taking account of the increase in the hourly rate for the live-in carer’s cover from “1 April 2019”. With regard to overpaying direct payments, it invited Mr X to confirm the current balance on his daughter’s direct payment account so it could resolve the matter. It also invited him to telephone.
- The Council’s records of its payments to Miss X show it did not take off her assessed contribution until May 2019. It paid:
- £1,138.86 a week from 1 to 8 April 2018
- £1,170.92 a week from 9 April 2018 to 31 March 2019
- £1,202.02 a week from 1 April to 7 April 2019
- £1,238.09 a week from 8 April 2019
- £1,145.00 a week from 1 May 2019
Is there evidence of fault by the Council which caused injustice?
- There is no dispute over the fact the Council took too long to respond to Mr X’s concerns. However, it has still not corrected all of its errors. In March 2019 the Council confirmed it would backdate an increase in the cost of the live-in carer to 24 June 2018, but it did not do this. That is fault by the Council. It needs to correct that error.
- The Council failed to take off Miss X’s contribution from its payments until May 2019. While that was fault by the Council, which added to the confusion, the Council was entitled to ask for the money to be repaid. Nevertheless, the Council should pay financial redress to Mr X, to reflect the time and trouble he has been put to in making the complaint for his daughter.
- I recommended the Council within four weeks:
- writes to Mr X apologising for its mistakes;
- implements the increased cost of the live-in carer and backdates this to 24 June 2018; and
- pays Mr X £250 for the time and trouble it has put him to in making his complaint.
The Council has agreed to do this.
- I have completed my investigation as the Council has agreed to take the action I recommended.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman