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Northumberland council asked to look again at man’s disability expenses

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has asked Northumberland County Council to reconsider how it supports a man with disabilities after its failings left him unable to go on holiday.

The man, who needs full-time care, said the council did not consider holiday travel and accommodation costs for his care worker as ‘disability related expenses’. Without the support of his care worker he could not go on holiday, and says he could not afford the costs himself.

Disability-related expenses (DRE) are extra costs incurred by people which are linked to their disabilities. These can include respite care, personal assistance costs and transport costs. Expenses that are considered DREs should be disregarded when councils calculate how much a person should then contribute towards the cost of their care. Statutory guidance says that when councils are considering what qualifies as a DRE, ‘flexibility is needed’.

In October 2019 the council carried out an assessment to decide which of the man’s expenses would count as DRE. He asked that travel and holiday accommodation costs be included because he could not go on holiday without a carer. However, the council would not consider those costs as a DRE.   

When the man complained, the council told him that holidays were not covered by the Care Act or DRE guidance. They said holidays would not be covered because the man had not been assessed as having an eligible need to go on holiday.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council had taken too rigid an approach to its decision-making and failed to consider the individual circumstances of the man’s case. It has asked the council to review the man’s request for holiday costs for his carer to be considered a disability related expense.

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

“In this case the man believed that going on holiday independently, without his family’s support, was essential both in terms of promoting his independence, and for him to maintain his emotional health. But he needed the support of a carer to be able to do this.

“The council said it had considered his wellbeing, but the evidence shows its decision was consistently tied to the fact that holidays are not mentioned as an eligible outcome in the Care Act.

“While I cannot tell the council what should be considered a DRE, I have asked it to reconsider its assessment of this man’s situation and re-examine its inflexible approach to the way it applies its policy.”

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 also apologise to the man and pay him £200 for time and trouble taken to deal with his complaint.

Article date: 17 November 2021