Somerset council took too long assessing disabled woman’s care needs

Somerset County Council has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after taking too long to assess a vulnerable woman’s care needs.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council took 21 months to carry out a reassessment of her needs. The reassessment also failed to address questions about who would pay for respite care and short breaks.

The woman lives in supported accommodation and employs her parents to provide her care through direct payments.

The investigation also found the council at fault for reneging on its agreement to make a one-off payment for a short break, and to backdate her increased care package. It also failed to increase her payments to allow her to pay her father for managing her finances.

Michael King, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

“The council has relied on the goodwill of this woman’s parents to provide support and care over and above what they should have done, because it took too long to complete its reassessment. It also didn’t do some of the things it had promised to do, or properly consider if the woman needed help to administer her direct payments.

“I now call on Somerset council to reflect on and agree to all of our recommendations. These include actions not just to properly address all of the issues the family encountered, but also practical changes to processes designed to avoid other people suffering similar problems.” 

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 the council has agreed to apologise and pay a token amount to the woman’s parents to acknowledge the time and trouble caused by the inadequate assessment, the delayed assessment and in bringing the complaint.

It will also apologise in writing to the woman and backdate her increased direct payments, as it agreed to do in July 2018.

However, the council has not yet agreed to recommendations to increase her direct payments, over a period of a number of years, to allow her to pay her father to manage her direct payment account, or make a one-off payment for a short break as it had already agreed to.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the Ombudsman awaits confirmation the council will review its direct payment guidance and procedures around a carer managing a cared-for person’s direct payment account. It has also recommended the council review procedures for considering care arrangements when a personal assistant is not available.

Article date: 31 October 2019

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