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Ombudsman criticises council for failing to properly involve complainant in assessment and support planning process

A council significantly delayed completing an assessment of a complainant's social care needs, failed to complete a support plan before reducing his personal budget and failed to properly involve him in the assessment and support planning process, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

In its report on the case, the Ombudsman service said the council also reneged on an agreement to provide an independent social worker to support the complainant, Mr B, to carry out a self-assessment and failed to properly deal with his complaints.

Although not named in the Ombudsman report, Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council said in a statement: “The council accepts there is learning from this case and is ensuring that this informs future improvements.”

Mr B complained through his solicitor that the council tried to reduce his personal budget on three occasions, without carrying out a proper assessment of his social care needs,

The Ombudsman said Mr B has complex physical health concerns and needs a significant degree of care and support.

At the beginning of 2015, Mr B was receiving 91 hours of support each week, partly funded by the council and partly by the Independent Living Fund, which was closed that year with responsibility for supporting users passing to councils.

A series of disputes about the extent and cost of Mr B’s care continued until 2018, when the council made an unreserved apology, and accepted its decision to reduce Mr B’s funding was not made in accordance with the Care Act or statutory guidance.

The council offered to pay Mr B £1,600 for the delay in reassessment of his care and support needs and for distress caused.

But Mr B and his solicitor considered this insufficient, and the Ombudsman said the council should also reimburse Mr B the £1261.86 he paid for a legal aid certificate and costs of £1,450 not covered by legal aid.

“This is because I consider the council’s improper decision to cut Mr B’s budget in August 2016 made it necessary for Mr B to seek legal assistance, and Mr B continued to need this support due to the council’s subsequent failings,” the ombudsman said.

The council agreed to pay these sums, and will arrange training on the Care Act for its adult social care staff.

Mark Smulian

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