The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X has complained that the Council failed to ensure her mother’s needs were being met. There is no evidence of fault by the Council.
- Mrs X has complained on behalf of her mother, Mrs Y. Mrs X says her mother was living in unsuitable accommodation which was putting her at risk. She raised her concerns with the Council but says it failed to take any action. Mrs X also says the Council failed to properly look into the safeguarding concerns she raised about her mother.
- Mrs X has raised concerns about the tenancy for the property where Mrs Y lived until recently. Mrs Y signed the tenancy over to her son, Mr B in 2014. However, Mrs X says her mother did not have capacity to make this decision.
- I have considered Mrs X’s concerns about the Council’s failure to meet her mother’s needs. The final part of this statement explains my reasons for not considering the rest of the complaint.
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)
- 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)
- 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 have considered all the information from Mrs X and the Council, including its response to my enquires.
- A copy of this decision was sent in draft to Mrs X and the Council. I have considered the comments received in response.
- Mrs Y was diagnosed with dementia in 2015. Until recently she lived in a Council owned property with her son, Mr B, and received care and support from her children at home. In 2015, Mrs X discovered that her mother signed over her tenancy to Mr B in 2014. Mrs X believed Mr B may be financially abusing their mother and contacted the Council about her concerns. She said Mrs Y did not have capacity to sign over the tenancy. She also suspected that Mr B was claiming benefits on Mrs Y’s behalf without her knowledge.
- The Council looked into the concerns raised by Mrs X. It made enquiries about Mr B’s tenancy and the benefits being claimed on Mrs Y’s behalf, but decided there were no safeguarding concerns. However, it appointed a social worker to assess Mrs Y’s needs and her capacity to make decisions about her care. An Occupation Therapist (OT) also visited Mrs Y to ensure her home was suitable to meet her needs. Following the assessment, the OT arranged for some aids and equipment to assist Mrs Y.
- In December 2016, the Council held a best interest meeting to discuss Mrs Y’s care going forward. During the meeting, it was agreed that Mrs Y should remain at home for as long as possible, but she would require ground floor accommodation to meet her long term needs. Alternative solutions, such as stair lifts were also considered and the social worker said she would discuss this with the OT. Mr B said that he was planning to buy the property under the Right to Buy scheme and had started adaptations to the ground floor so Mrs Y could move downstairs. Mrs X says she spoke to the Council about the possibility of a stair lift a few months before the meeting, but was concerned that Mrs Y may not be able to manage this on her own.
- The Council held another best interest meeting in March 2017. The social worker discussed Mrs Y’s care and any issues that had occurred since the last meeting. Mr B explained the adaptations were on hold while he was in correspondence with the Council’s housing department. However, he was getting a mortgage to buy the property and therefore expected work to restart shortly and be completed within two to three months. Mrs X says she raised concerns about her mother’s safety in the house during this meeting and again in May 2017.
- In October 2017, Mr B finished the adaptations to the house and Mrs Y moved downstairs. The Council appointed an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) for Mrs Y and held another best interest meeting. Mrs X, the IMCA, the OT and Mrs Y’s social worker attended to discuss Mrs Y’s ongoing needs. The social worker said that although Mrs Y’s health had deteriorated, her needs could still be met at home. However, there were still concerns about Mrs Y’s long term care and the OT suggested that Mrs Y may need downstairs shower facilities in the future. Further issues were also raised about the completed adaptations as Mr B carried out the work without the necessary permission. Mrs X raised concerns about her mother’s safety. She said there was a lack of access in and out of the house, Mrs Y could not properly use her bathroom and a shipping container remained in the garden blocking light and access from Mrs Y’s downstairs bedroom. She also complained the Council should have looked into the issues about permission for the adaptations sooner.
- The Council held another meeting in November 2017. There had been further developments with Mrs Y’s housing situation. The Council’s housing department had told Mr B the completed adaptations were not allowed and he would need to restore the property to its previous condition. Therefore, alternative accommodation solutions for Mrs Y were discussed so her needs could continue to be met should she need to move out of her home.
- In January 2018, the housing department inspected the property and confirmed the completed works were safe. Therefore, Mrs Y could remain in the property. The IMCA also issued his report, concluding that it was in Mrs Y’s best interest to stay in her home for as long as possible.
- Mrs X contacted the Council in January 2018 for an update on her mother’s case and attended a meeting with Mrs Y’s social worker shortly after this. Mrs X chased the Council again in February 2018 and says she was told that the case was closed. Mrs X complained and Mrs Y’s social worker responded and said that the case remained with her and she had sought legal advice. In April 2018, the Council contacted Mrs X to say that it had consulted with its legal department and following OT intervention Mrs Y’s current needs were being met. The Council said it would reassess Mrs Y should her health deteriorate.
What I found
- Councils have a duty under the Care Act 2014 to carry out an assessment for any adult that needs care and support. The Council reassessed Mrs Y’s needs after Mrs X contacted it in 2015. Mrs Y’s care plan said she needed assistance with her personal care, meal preparation and prompting to take her medication. The Council paid Mrs Y a direct payment for her care and until recently her family provided support at home.
- The OT also assessed Mrs Y as Mrs X had raised concerns about her safety at home. The OT first assessed Mrs Y in November 2015. The OT’s report said that Mrs Y may need downstairs accommodation in the future, but her needs at the time could be met at home with some extra equipment. The OT has also assessed Mrs Y on a few occasions since, both before and after she moved into the converted downstairs bedroom. These reports said that Mrs Y’s needs could be met in the property with the minor changes that were made.
- Mrs X disagrees. She argues the adaptations made to the house did not meet Mrs Y’s needs and there were ongoing problems with access in and out of the property and the bathroom facilities. I have reviewed the OT reports and Mrs Y’s care plan. It is clear that the property Mrs Y was living in may not have been suitable for her long-term needs. But, the OT’s assessment said that Mrs Y’s needs at the time were being met at home. The Council also installed different equipment so Mrs Y could use her bathroom and discussed the removal of the shipping container with Mr B. Mrs X says that Mrs Y was unable to properly get in and out of the house. However, the Council did consider this issue and was told that a ramp would be fitted privately. Therefore, I cannot say it was unreasonable that it did not arrange these adaptations. I understand Mrs X does not agree that the property was suitable for her mother, but this was the OT’s professional opinion and I see no reason to question the OT’s judgment. The Council also said it would continue to assess the situation as Mrs Y’s needs changed and she has recently moved into a residential care home.
- I understand Mrs X says the Council allowed the matter to go on for too long and it should have checked the adaptations Mr B was making to ensure these were suitable for Mrs Y. But, it was not for the Council to manage the building work Mr B was carrying out. I can see that it did regularly communicate with other departments within the Council about the status of the adaptations. It also continued to meet with the family and assess Mrs Y’s needs regularly to ensure these were still being met. Therefore, I cannot say there is any fault.
- Mrs X has also complained about how the Council dealt with her complaint. She says it took a long time to respond to her concerns after she complained in January 2018 and closed Mrs Y’s case without telling her. I have reviewed the correspondence between Mrs X and the Council, but I cannot say the Council was at fault in this regard as it needed to seek legal advice on the matter. Mrs X says the case was closed without warning, but Mrs Y’s social worker contacted Mrs X in February 2018 to clarify that she was still dealing with the case and had asked for legal advice. The Council updated Mrs X in April 2018 after the legal advice was received.
- There is no fault with how the Council dealt with Mrs X’s concerns about the suitability of Mrs Y’s home.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- Mrs X has also complained about how the Council dealt with her safeguarding concerns. Mrs X contacted the Council about her concerns in 2015. The Ombudsman will not usually look at issues that occurred more than 12 months ago. Therefore, I have not investigated this part of Mrs X’s complaint as it is late.
- Mrs X also raised concerns about her mother signing the tenancy over to Mr B. I cannot consider this matter as there are certain issues that will be out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. Complaints about the tenancy will be dealt with by the Housing Ombudsman.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman