Nottinghamshire man’s care package reduced because of financial pressures, Ombudsman finds

A Nottinghamshire man with autism was left relying on his parents to part-fund his care when the county council cut his package without identifying a suitable alternative, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The Ombudsman said the council appeared to reduce the man’s budget for financial reasons – and compounded this by saying his budget may be cut again without considering his future needs.

The man, who lives with his parents, had been receiving the same care package for 12 years. He was settled and happy with his specialist care workers and, because of his autism, became distressed at the thought of his situation changing.

After an assessment, the council reduced the man’s care package significantly, leaving his parents to fund the difference to maintain their son’s continuity of care, and pay mileage costs.

The Ombudsman’s investigation has criticised the council for not reviewing the man’s care package for three years, and for reducing it due to the cost being above the council’s standard rate.

It has also found the council at fault for not properly considering the mother’s needs as a carer for both her son and her sick husband.

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

“In this case the council reduced the man’s care package so he had to fund the shortfall from his benefits, which even then were not enough. His parents had little choice but to cover the cost of this, despite their son’s level of care having not changed in more than 12 years.

“While councils can consider the financial cost when deciding how much to pay a person to meet their eligible needs, they cannot make care decisions based solely on those financial considerations. This is what Nottinghamshire appears to have done in this case.

“I now call on the council to review my report and accept the recommendations I have made to improve the services it provides to this family and others across the county.”

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 should apologise to the family and review the man’s assessment. It should produce a care and support plan which reflects his needs, explaining in detail how these needs will be met.

It should also make a symbolic payment of £1,000 and reimburse his parents for everything they have spent to top-up their son’s care. It should complete a new financial assessment and consider all relevant Disability Related Expenditure (DRE).

It should also make a further symbolic payment of £1,000 to the man’s mother to acknowledge its failure to provide allocated respite funds, review her carer’s assessment and produce a support plan setting out how her needs will be met.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council should consider if other people have been similarly affected and take any necessary action to address this.

It should also amend its policies, procedures and leaflets to address the Ombudsman’s concerns.

Article date: 22 January 2020