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Cumbria County Council (20 003 857)

Category : Adult care services > Domiciliary care

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 11 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Ms B’s complaint about the Councils failure to provide care and support when requested. This is because the Council has apologised for the failings in this case and advised Ms B it has restructured its short-term care team to minimise the risk of a similar occurrence. It is unlikely further investigation could add to this or make a different finding.

The complaint

  1. Ms B complained about the lack of care and support her father and his family received from the Council when his privately arranged care provider gave notice to quit. Ms B says she has not had a satisfactory answer as to why the care provider could not continue to provide care after four years and due to lack of continuity and support, Mr C would have been left without care and support if she and her sister had not provided it on the morning of 17 August. In addition Ms B says the Council has not responded to her complaint about the way she was treated by appalling and rude staff.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information and documentation Ms B provided. I sent Ms B a copy of my draft decision and considered her comments on it.

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What I found

  1. Ms B complained to the Council when no care was arranged or provided to Mr C on the morning of 17 August following his long-term provider giving notice to quit.
  2. The Council investigated Ms B’s concerns and responded in January 2021. It said Mrs C contacted the Council in May advising that Mr C’s finances had fallen below the threshold for paying the full cost of his care. It says it received notification from Mr C’s care provider on 28 July advising of its intention to serve notice on the care package it was providing to Mr C and would provide care until and including 16 August. Ms B says she believes the care provider gave notice because it was no longer receiving the private rate for care. The investigator says it believed the reason for terminating the care package was staffing availability. We could not say the reason given for terminating Mr C’s care package is fault of the Council or add to this point.
  3. The Council says there are a number of records showing Ms B called requesting an update on what was happening with Mr C’s care package. On 14 August, the Council says it sourced a provisional care package with a Personal Assistant who had agreed to provide care to Mr C. The Council says it contacted Ms B to inform her of this. However, it says the Personal Assistant texted the social worker on the morning of the 17 August to say she was unable to provide the support.
  4. Ms B says a Personal Assistant made an unannounced visit to Mr C on 14 August and advised she could not provide care on 17 August. The Council’s failure to source an appropriate package of care resulted in Ms B and her sister providing care in the morning and arranging respite care.
  5. The Council’s investigation acknowledged there was a lack of pro-active communication from the social worker relating to the sourcing of a new provider and failure to keep Mr C’s family informed at what was a highly stressful time. It says from the timescales available from when the referral was received there was ample time for Mr C to be reassessed and this should have been prioritised.
  6. It is unlikely any further investigation could add to the Council’s response. The Council has acknowledged Mr C and his family did not get an adequate service from it, which increased their distress and anxieties at what was already a difficult time. The Council has apologised and amended it procedures for dealing with emergency situations and provision of care in the short term. We could not achieve any more than this.
  7. Ms B says the Council failed to consider her complaint about the appallingly rude way council staff spoke to her during telephone contact. Ms B perceived the calls as rude, and although the Council has not responded to this point it is unlikely any investigation by the Ombudsman could make a finding on this when he was not present.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council has apologised for the failings in this case and advised Ms B it has restructured its short-term care team to minimise the risk of a similar occurrence. It is unlikely further investigation could add to this or make a different finding.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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