Ombudsman reminds councils of proper process for supporting vulnerable people at assessment meetings

Councils are being reminded by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman that vulnerable people can choose who supports them through care reviews, after Suffolk County Council halted assessments for a couple’s care and support plans because of a dispute.

The couple, who are deafblind, wanted their support worker to attend meetings with the council to discuss care package reviews. But Suffolk County Council said it was not appropriate for the support worker to attend, and wanted an independent advocate there instead.

The couple complained to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman’s investigation has found flaws in the council’s assessments of the couple. It has also found the council at fault for excluding the couple’s support worker from the support review meetings, and for saying it could not complete the couple’s care and support plans while there was an ongoing complaint.

The council has accepted most of the Ombudsman’s findings, but has yet to accept it was wrong to exclude the support worker from the meetings.

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

“Statutory guidance says when assessing people and revising their care and support plans they can have any other person they want involved.

“While the council was right to identify the need for an independent advocate because, as a paid employee, the couple’s support worker could not fulfil that role, that did not mean it could exclude her from meetings to discuss the couple’s care and support plans.

“I now urge Suffolk County Council to consider my report and its findings and complete its assessment of the couple.”

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

In this case it has asked the council to apologise to the couple and pay them £500 for the distress they have been caused.  It should also apologise to their support worker and pay her £250 for the trouble she has been put to in pursuing the complaint.

It should also reassess the couple’s needs and update their care and support plans, and ensure they are supported by their support worker, if that is what they want, through the assessment and planning process.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. It has recommended the council considers how it will make sure:

  • assessments are complete and accurate;
  • care and support plans comply with statutory guidance;
  • people are supported through the assessment and planning processes by anyone they want;
  • it does not allow disputes over personal budgets, and how care needs should be met, prevent it from completing care and support plans; and
  • mental capacity assessments comply with the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice.

Article date: 13 June 2019