Surrey County Council (18 001 932)

Category : Adult care services > Domiciliary care

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 07 Feb 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complains about the care the Council provided and the charges. He says this caused him much distress, worsened health and wellbeing, and financial loss. The Ombudsman finds no fault causing injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, complains that the Council:
    • Charged him for occasions when he was attended by a carer, B, who was later charged with a criminal offence.
    • Threatened to send bailiffs in.
    • Completed a flawed financial assessment.
    • Had never sent a copy of his support plan but still charged him.
    • Told him he would have to go to a care home.
    • Failed to properly investigate his concerns about the care provider it commissioned to provide support for him and:
      1. Ended his support with only a few days’ notice.
      2. Used a carer, B, who was later convicted of a criminal offence.
      3. Failed to provide information about B’s employment and the Care Provider’s actions in relation to this.
  2. Mr X does not feel the Council has resolved his complaint and has therefore refused to pay his care bill of around £5,000. He also says he suffered from an infection caused by B as a result of which his health and wellbeing has worsened.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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 considered information from the complainant and from the Council.
  2. I sent both parties a copy of my draft decision for comment and took account of the comments I received in response.

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What I found

  1. The Council provided Mr X with support using a care provider from 31 January 2018. Different carers attended Mr X and on one occasion he complained to the care provider that his main carer (B) was asleep. Mr X says B did not arrive on “numerous occasions” and Mr X had to call to wake him up.
  2. Mr X says on one occasion, B touched an open sore without gloves. Mr X says this caused, or worsened, an infection.
  3. B was later arrested and subsequently convicted of a criminal offence.
  4. Mr X complained to the Ombudsman in May 2018 but he had not yet complained to the Council or the Care Provider. We referred his complaint to the Council and it contacted him in June 2018.
  5. Mr X said he would not pay the part of his care bill that related to B’s visits.
  6. In its response, the Council:
    • apologised for the delay in providing a copy of his support plan.
    • said it could not give information about the reasons B ceased working for the Care Provider.
    • Said it arranged interim support while it found a new provider and enabled Mr X to stay at home as he did not want to go into residential care.
  7. Mr X complained about the financial assessment and the Council responded to these concerns on 4 July 2018. Mr X’s concerns included:
    • that capital should not be included for financial assessment.
    • changes in the cost of care.
    • transfer of property.
    • application for attendance allowance.
  8. Mr X raised further issues and the Council responded again on 27 July. Its response included the following information:
    • The Council’s care plan is kept in the Care Provider’s office, not placed in the person’s home.
    • Neither the Council nor the Care Provider would provide details of carers’ names and dates of birth due to Data Protection.
    • The Care Provider did not have any knowledge of B’s alleged activities or arrest.
    • Mr X had only raised one issue about his care which was about B and that he needed to wake him up. Mr X had said he did not want to take this complaint further.
    • The Council had arranged for a duty worker to visit on the one day Mr X was left without carers. It had difficulty sourcing agency staff able to fulfil Mr X’s requirements, and arranged for its reablement service to provide support in the meantime.
    • The only mention of a care home was about respite as a temporary solution to the lack of carers available. It was not a threat but an option.
    • Mr X could bring his complaint to the Ombudsman if he was dissatisfied.
  9. Mr X raised more issues and the Council responded on 17 August. It repeated some of its previous responses and said:
    • The Council does not threaten bailiffs as part of the debt recovery process but letters from credit control do refer to the Council’s debt recovery team.
    • All carers used by the Care Provider had enhanced Disclosure Barring Service checks.
    • It was satisfied that Mr X had received the support stated in his support plan and therefore would not agree a reduction in the charge.

Was there fault which caused injustice?

  1. I am satisfied the Council’s responses addressed all the points raised by Mr X adequately and I found no fault causing injustice.
  2. There is no evidence of Mr X’s allegation that B touched his wound without using gloves. That is not to say it did not happen but, I have seen no evidence that Mr X raised this at the time. On the balance of probability, I have concluded the incident was not so significant that Mr X had concerns at the time. We are unlikely to find evidence to support, or counter, his allegation now and so there is no reason to investigate further.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation and do not uphold Mr X’s complaints that the Council:
    • Charged him for occasions when he was attended by a carer, B, who was later charged with a criminal offence.
    • Threatened to send bailiffs in.
    • Completed a flawed financial assessment.
    • Had never sent a copy of his support plan but still charged him.
    • Told him he would have to go to a care home.
    • Failed to properly investigate his concerns about the care provider it commissioned to provide support for him and:
      1. Ended his support with only a few days’ notice.
      2. Used a carer, B, who was later convicted of a criminal offence.
      3. Failed to provide information about B’s employment and the Care Provider’s actions in relation to this.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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