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Married couple separated for 10 months due to lack of available homecare

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has asked Lincolnshire County Council to review other families’ cases after a man was separated from his wife for 10 months because there was no homecare available in his area.

The man’s wife, who has mobility problems, should have returned home with the help of a care package following a hip operation. But to get the support needed, she was placed in a residential home some 15 miles away because the council’s contracted providers did not have capacity to care for her.

This meant her husband driving a 30 mile round trip every day to visit, when they both wanted her to return home. Even though she did not have the condition, she was placed in a dementia unit for some of the time, being forced to lock her door to prevent other residents wandering in uninvited.

The Ombudsman found the council at fault for allowing the woman to be placed in the dementia unit, and for not revising her care and support plan when her circumstances changed.

Through its investigation into this complaint, the Ombudsman found that other people may have been similarly affected by the council’s contracting arrangements.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“This couple found themselves in the situation of a hospital operation leading to 10 months living apart, because of the lack of care provision available.

“The woman was placed for too long in an unsuitable care environment. She wanted to return home to be with her husband, but instead had no choice but to live with people whose care needs were very different to her own, causing her significant distress.

“Lincolnshire County Council should have reviewed her care and support plan once her circumstances had changed and moved her to a more suitable room sooner.

“Complaints are a learning opportunity. I encourage all councils to look carefully at this report, particularly if they are in the process of reviewing their commissioning models.”

This investigation provides important learning points for councils changing how they commission care. Lincolnshire agreed contracts with a smaller number of preferred care providers, each solely responsible for delivering all homecare services in their zone, in an effort to improve stability in the local market. The newly contracted provider in the woman’s area didn’t have enough capacity to provide care to meet her needs.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.

In this case, the council has agreed to pay the husband £750 and the wife £1,000 to reflect their distress. It will also refund the man’s travel expenses for the 10 month period.

The council has agreed to the Ombudsman’s recommendation to identify whether others were affected and provide the same remedy to those families if any injustice has occurred.

Article date: 22 August 2017

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