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Essex County Council (21 006 660)

Category : Adult care services > Other

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 01 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complained the Council failed to fix a specially adapted toilet in his home after a care worker broke it several months ago. He said this situation has caused him stress and inconvenience. there was fault in the Council’s failure to source a plumber to visit Mr X’s property within a timely manner. Mr X did not find the plumber suitable to carry out the work and so there is no significant injustice.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complained a care agency worker accidentally broke his specially adapted toilet whilst visiting his home. Mr X said he told the Care Provider and the Council he urgently needed the toilet to be replaced however the Council has still not arranged to fix it.
  2. Mr X said this matter has caused him and his wife significant stress and inconvenience.

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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)
  3. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the statutory regulator of care services. It keeps a register of care providers who show they meet the fundamental standards of care, inspects care services and issues reports on its findings. It also has power to enforce against breaches of fundamental care standards and prosecute offences.
  4. Under the information sharing agreement between the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), we will share this decision with CQC.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I contacted Mr X and discussed the complaint with him.
  2. I made enquiries of the Council and considered the information it provided. This included email correspondence shared between Mr X and the Council.
  3. I wrote to the Council and Mr X with details of the draft decision. I gave both the Council and Mr X the opportunity to make comments before I wrote the final decision.

Law

  1. Sections 9 and 10 of the Care Act 2014 require local authorities to carry out an assessment for any adult with an appearance of need for care and support. They must provide an assessment to all people regardless of their finances or whether the local authority thinks an individual has eligible needs.
  2. Intermediate care and reablement support services are for people after they have left hospital or when they are at risk of having to go into hospital. They are time limited and aim to help a person to preserve or regain the ability to live independently.
  3. Local authorities must not charge for the first six weeks of intermediate care or reablement services. They may make a charge where services are provided beyond the first six weeks, but should consider continuing providing them without charge because of the preventive benefits. (Reg 4, Care and Support (Preventing Needs for Care and Support) Regulations 2014)
  4. The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 set out the fundamental standards those registered to provide care services must achieve. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has issued guidance on how to meet the fundamental standards below which care must never fall.
  5. Regulation 12 aims to prevent people from receiving unsafe care and treatment and prevent avoidable harm or risk of harm. Care providers must assess the risks to people's health and safety during any care or treatment and act to mitigate risks.

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What I found

Mr X’s complaint

  1. In early 2021 Mr X became and ill and spent an extended period in the hospital. When Mr X left the hospital, he was assessed by the Council and given a 6-week reablement care package to help him with his mobility and self-care. The Council arranged for a Care Provider to send carers to help Mr X 4 times a day.
  2. On 22 February 2021, Mr X a carer from the homecare service bro1ke the toilet and flooded his home. Mr X told the Care Provider who sent someone to take photos of the damage. Mr X also contacted the Council and explained the toilet was specially adapted for his mobility needs and he needed the toilet fixed quickly.
  3. On 22 March 2021, Mr X contacted the Council to chase for an update and again on 14 April 2021. The Care Provider and Mr X discussed a convenient time for the plumber visit but were unable to agree on a specific date. On 26 April 2021, Mr X contacted the Care Provider and said he had not received contact from a plumber.
  4. Mr X formally complained to the Council on 29 April 2021 as the toilet had still not been fixed. He continued to contact the Council asking for an update in the following months.
  5. On 30 June 2021, the Council told Mr X the Care Provider was responsible for repairing the toilet and had arranged for a plumber to fix the toilet.
  6. Mr X says a neighbour told him he should not allow a plumber to enter his home if he was not insured for a significant amount of money. The plumber told Mr X he did not have this level of insurance and would not accept responsibility for any further problems and so the appointment did not go ahead.
  7. Mr X complained to the Care Provider on 2 July 2021. He said he was unhappy it had sent an unsuitable plumber to fix the problem. He also asked the Council to liaise with the Care Provider to send another plumber.
  8. On 27 July 2021, the Council wrote to Mr X and told him the Care Provider had arranged to send a different plumber to his property on 30 July 2021. Mr X told the Council the plumber did not arrive, and he made a further complaint on 1 August 2021. He told the Council he was seeking legal advice and told the Council the Care Provider had offered him a replacement toilet which did not work in the same way as the old one.
  9. The Council told Mr X it had nothing further to say on the matter and referred him to back to the Care Provider.
  10. At the time Mr X brought his complaint to the Ombudsman, the toilet had been broken for 8 months. The Council said it had reached a stalemate with Mr X, as he will not accept the plumbers it has arranged to send to his property. Mr X disagrees with the Council’s comments and says he has found a plumber who is able to carry out the work but he wants assurance he will be reimbursed by the Council.
  11. Following the Ombudsman’s intervention, the Council confirmed it would agree to cover the cost of replacing the toilet but required labour costs per hour. Mr X has been unable to provide this information to date.

Findings

  1. The Council arranged the care package, it was therefore the Council’s responsibility to arrange for Mr X’s toilet to be fixed. The evidence indicates Mr X had to pursue the Council and Care Provider several times before the Care Provider sent a plumber to inspect the toilet, almost three months after it had broken. The Care Provider also sent a second plumber who did not arrive at the scheduled time. This is fault. Mr X had to expend time and energy complaining to the Council and chasing for an update, which I imagine caused him stress and frustration.
  2. Mr X has not been willing to accept the plumbers that have attended his property due to his belief that they do not have the necessary insurance cover to successfully carry out the work. Whilst Mr X is entitled to hold this view, there is nothing in the law or the Council’s policy which supports this. Further, I have not seen evidence which shows the plumber which attended Mr X’s home was unable to fix the toilet. Whilst I agree the Council delay in arranging a plumber is fault, the evidence shows that had the Council responded earlier, Mr X would have behaved in the same way. The Council has satisfied its obligation towards Mr X and I cannot criticise the Council for this part of the complaint.

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Final decision

  1. There was fault when the Council delayed arranging a plumber to visit Mr X. There was no significant injustice as it is unlikely Mr X would have accepted the plumber if the Council had arranged one earlier. I have completed the investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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