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Council criticised over decision on care home costs and deprivation of capital

A council failed to take into consideration all relevant facts when deciding that an elderly couple had deliberately deprived themselves of capital in order to reduce the husband’s care costs, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) has concluded.

The LGO said an investigation found that South Gloucestershire Council did not fully explore the reasons why the couple had transferred money to their daughter and son-in-law, before reaching its decision, and did not provide the couple with the reasons for its decision.

The council did not carry out a financial assessment in line with the Care Act either, it added.

The background to the case was that the husband, who has a number of health conditions including Parkinson’s Disease and dementia, had been living with his wife in their family home. Over the years the family had spent significant sums to adapt the home and garden to ensure he could remain there for as long as possible.

In the 1980s and 1990s the couple gave three of their children help to purchase their houses. Their fourth had been living in tied accommodation to her husband’s job, and so had not needed help to buy until he retired.

The husband’s condition deteriorated at the same time as the couple’s daughter needed help to buy a house.

He was placed in a nursing home and a financial assessment of the couple took into account the money they had recently given to their daughter and son-in-law. This meant they had to pay the full cost of his care, which they said they could not afford.

The LGO has recommended that South Gloucestershire:

  • apologise to the family;
  • pay the wife £250 to recognise the distress the situation caused her;
  • review its decision that the couple deprived themselves of capital to avoid care charges, after first giving the wife the chance to provide further evidence to support her case
  • give the wife a properly reasoned decision showing the evidence it has considered in accordance with statutory guidance;
  • review its current procedures and guidance for staff on how to deal with cases where deprivation of capital may have occurred; and
  • ensure financial assessments are carried out at the correct time.

Ombudsman Michael King said: “The guidance says people should be treated with dignity and are free to spend their income as they see fit – including, in this case, making a similar gift to one daughter as they have done previously for their other adult children.

“The council’s actions have caused this family additional stress and worry, at a time when the wife was already faced with the emotional trauma of placing her husband into a nursing home.

“South Gloucestershire Council now needs to consider our report and consider what action it will take.”

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: “We acknowledge the findings in this report, and we will be implementing all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

“The report is being considered carefully and will be discussed by councillors at a future committee meeting (details tbc). Once published, copies of the report will be made available free of charge from our Kingswood and Yate One Stop Shops.”

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