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West Sussex County Council (20 012 815)

Category : Adult care services > Other

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 27 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B complained his supported housing provider did not repay him any money for the time he was not living in his flat between March and June 2020. There was no fault by the Council.

The complaint

  1. Mr B complained his supported housing provider did not repay him any money for the time he was not living in his flat between March and June 2020.

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What I have investigated

  1. I have investigated whether the Council or Mr B’s supported housing provider should have reimbursed him any money for the period he was not living at his flat between March and June 2020.

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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’. 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)
  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:
    • Mr B’s complaint and the information he provided;
    • documents supplied by the Council;
    • relevant legislation and guidelines; and
    • the Council’s policies and procedures.
  2. Mr B and the Council commented on a draft decision. I considered their comments before making my final decision.

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What I found

COVID-19

  1. From March to May 2020, England was in the first of three national lockdowns. People could only leave their home for limited purposes including travelling to and from work, but only where this was absolutely necessary. In May 2020, the Government said people who could not work from home should return to the workplace.

Council complaint procedure

  1. The Council has a two-stage adult social care procedure:
  2. Stage one: The Council sends complainants a letter explaining how it will investigate the complaint and how long it will take. This is an Individual Complaints Action Plan (ICAP). The Council will follow the steps in the ICAP.
  3. Stage two: If the complainant is unhappy with the Council’s response, a senior manager will review the complaint and send a final response on behalf of the service.

What happened

  1. Mr B lives in a flat in supported housing for people with mental health conditions. The supported housing is staffed 24 hours a day and Mr B receives 20 hours of one-to-one support a week.
  2. In March 2020, the housing provider told residents its service would continue during the national lockdown. It advised there would be some changes to staffing, but the impact on tenants would be small. The housing provider told tenants and their families, should one of the tenants become infected with COVID-19 they would have to isolate in their flats to prevent the spread of infection. It said if this happened, staff would carry out welfare checks throughout the day, ensure the tenant had any food and medication they needed, and offer medical support.
  3. Mr B’s mother, Mrs C, spoke to the housing provider. Mrs C decided it would be better for Mr B to stay with her because he would struggle with lockdown, and even more so if he had to isolate. Mr B agreed.
  4. Mr B stayed with his mother between March and June 2020. He visited his flat during this period and did not end his tenancy. He sought support from the housing provider by phone and in person during this time. Mr B returned to live at his flat at the end of June 2020.

Complaint

  1. In February 2021, Mr B complained to the Council that he was encouraged to live with his mother for three months because of staffing issues at his supported living accommodation and had not had any fees repaid. He said other tenants had been given money back.
  2. Mr B came to the Ombudsman in March 2021 and said the Council had not responded to his complaint. We raised this with the Council.
  3. The Council responded to Mr B’s complaint. It explained the housing provider offered tenants a service between March and June 2020. It said Mr B and Mrs C decided it was better for him to stay with her rather than in his flat. The Council told Mr B it could not return any contributions to customers, as the service provided was still available when he was staying with his mother. It explained the Council continued to pay the housing provider between March and June 2020, so the service was available for him when he returned. The Council told Mr B to contact it if her remained dissatisfied.
  4. Mr B contacted the Ombudsman about his complaint. We asked the Council if it had completed its complaints procedure. The Council advised Mr B had not accessed the second stage. We asked the Council to consider his complaint at stage two.
  5. The Council responded at stage two of its complaint procedure in May 2021. It upheld the findings of its stage one complaint investigation. It told Mr B if he remained dissatisfied, he could take his complaint to the Ombudsman.

Enquiry response

  1. The Council and the supported housing provider confirmed they had not given refunds to any tenants living in the same accommodation as Mr B.

Analysis

  1. Mr B chose to live with his mother from March to June 2020. During this period, his tenancy remained in place, and he could access support from staff. The housing provider continued to offer Mr B a service and the Council continued to pay for this. This enabled Mr B to return to live in his flat at the end of June 2020. The Council nor the housing provider owe Mr B any money from this period.
  2. There was a short delay in the Council responding to Mr B’s stage one complaint of three days. Given the delay was only three days, I did not consider this significant enough to be fault or to have caused Mr B significant injustice.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation and do not uphold Mr B’s complaint.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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