A woman complains on behalf of her sister who has disabilities. She says that when the council was appointee for her sister between September 2002 and October 2013 it failed to deal properly with her money and then did not appropriately respond to her complaints about this.
Fault found causing injustice and recommendations made.
To remedy the injustice caused the council should:
- apologise to the woman for the failures identified which affected both her and her sister;
- repay £11,700 to the sister to put her back in the position she was in before it miscalculated her housing benefit overpayment. The council has already acknowledged its error here and has repaid the money;
- refund to the sister the appointee charges applied from January 2006 until it stopped being her appointee, in recognition of its failure to manage her money properly;
- reimburse the sister the £400 she overpaid for her bills;
- reimburse the woman for the £292.75 which she spent on clothes for her sister;
- pay £500 to the woman for the avoidable distress, time and trouble caused to her;
- arrange an independent, external process to review its practices in light of this report for the existing 17 service users for whom the council is currently appointee and who live in a house of multiple occupation (HMO) with people for whom the council is not appointee. In view of the risks to service users, this should take place as soon as possible to ensure that any safeguarding concerns are acted on at the earliest opportunity;
- make sure it has arrangements in place to:
- ensure it has more robust ways of dealing with bill payments for service users;
- ensure it has a quality assurance and monitoring system in place to consider its practice in those cases where it is appointee. This should include best interests decisions which the appointee relies on to make payments;
- ensure relevant staff receive training in appointeeship, mental capacity, best interests and safeguarding adults so that decisions about people's money are properly made. Also set up rountine refresher training for those staff:
- ensure that people in supported accommodation have a fair and accountable system to pay for communal goods;
- review its complaints process and training in light of these events to ensure it deals with future complaints more effectively; and
- develop guidance to providers on holiday planning for service users.
The council should confirm to us it has taken this action within three months of the date of this report.
Ombudsman satisfied with council's response: 18 November 2016.