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Kent County Council (11 001 504)

Category : Adult care services > Residential care

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 23 Jul 2012

Summary

Kent County Council wrongly refused to pay for short-term residential care for an elderly woman when she was released from hospital. 

The complaint

The Ombudsman said: “The Council’s internal guidance said that staff could only use the Council's own homes, or places it had 'pre-purchased', or community hospitals. The requirement to offer service users a genuine choice of placement when they are assessed as needing residential care is enshrined in law. The guidance did not adhere to these principles.”

The Ombudsman was pleased that the Council agreed to fulfil her recommendations to remedy the injustice.

An elderly woman needed to go into a residential home for a short time when she was discharged from hospital. She needed to be in a home close to her daughter so she could visit. The daughter found a home from the Council's approved provider list but the Council refused to pay the fees.

The reason the Council refused to pay was that senior officers in adult social services had issued instructions about short-term residential care. The instructions were that staff could only use the Council's own homes, or places it had 'pre-purchased', or community hospitals.

The daughter paid for her mother to have a place for four weeks in a residential home not covered by the instructions. She complained to the Council about its decision not to pay for the place, but senior managers would not change it.

After four weeks, everyone involved agreed that the elderly woman should stay in the residential home permanently. The Council then agreed to pay the costs but still refused to pay for the first four weeks.

The Head of Policy & Service Standards in adult social services said he had not known about the instructions. The officers who issued the instructions said they were a response to a high level of vacancies in 'pre-purchased' places, a budget crisis, and pressure to free-up hospital beds.

The Ombudsman found the instructions from senior managers were contrary to the 1992 Choice of Accommodation Directions. The Directions say a person can choose a permanent or temporary residential care home (if certain conditions are met as they were in this case). She found maladministration by the Council for:

  • refusing to fund the first four weeks of the place in the residential home
  • issuing instructions to staff that were contrary to Government directions, and
  • not realising that the instructions were wrong when the daughter complained, and not correcting them.

The Council agreed to remedy the injustice by:

  • apologising to the woman’s daughter
  • refunding the cost of the first four weeks’ residential care (£1,560)
  • withdrawing the incorrect instructions, and
  • identifying other people who may have been adversely affected by them.

 

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