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Ombudsman raps council for taking 21 months to reassess care needs of vulnerable woman

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) has criticised a council for taking 21 months to carry out a reassessment of a vulnerable woman’s care needs.

The reassessment carried out by Somerset County Council also failed to address questions about who would pay for respite care and short breaks, the LGO said.

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

The LGO said its investigation also found Somerset 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.”

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Somerset has agreed to:

  • pay what the LGO described as “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;
  • apologise in writing to the woman; and
  • backdate her increased direct payments, as it agreed to do in July 2018.

However, the LGO said Somerset 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 also said it awaits confirmation Somerset 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.

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.”

A spokesperson from Somerset County Council said: “We work hard to get things right every time. In this case we did not met the standards we set for ourselves. We have apologised to the individual and their family.

“The council has considered all the recommendations and is in the process of actioning them.

“Somerset is a learning authority and in light of the recommendations we are undertaking a review of our direct payments.”

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