Cheshire East Council

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Ombudsman criticises council over failure to have regard to human rights of man left in care home away from family for five months

A county council left a man in a care home away from his family for five months, without having any regard for his basic human rights, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) investigation has found.

The man, who has dementia, had been placed in the care home by his wife while she struggled to look after her son, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The family only intended the placement to be temporary, but after two weeks, the wife felt she could not cope with the man at home. At the time, Nottinghamshire County Council believed the man could return home with additional care calls. According to the report, the council did not complete a review or assessment despite his change of circumstances and did not review or assess his wife's needs as a carer.

Nottinghamshire also did not complete a mental capacity assessment of the man to find out whether he could understand his situation, make a decision about his care or support, or decide whether he would like to remain in the home, the Ombudsman found. The local authority also failed to assess his capacity to understand and agree to the care home costs.

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When the council eventually carried out an assessment five months later, it found he did not have the mental capacity to decide where to live or to make a decision about his finances. Despite this, the family was charged for the man's care for the time he was in the home - incurring debts of more than £15,000, which the care home had chased them for and threatened bailiff action if they did not pay.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: "The man had a right to respect for his family life, and to enjoy his existing home peacefully. But the council did not have any regard for the man's human rights during those five months he was away from his family.

"The council could have identified these problems during its own investigation of the complaint, but it failed to acknowledge the errors and the impact they have caused. However, I welcome the steps the council agreed to take during my investigation, and am pleased it has already started acting on my recommendations to improve its service."

Melanie Brooks, Corporate Director for Adult Social Care and Health at Nottinghamshire, said the council "wholeheartedly accepts all the recommendations in the report and apologise to the family for our mistakes in their situation".

She added: "We are committed to improve and have already started acting on the recommendations. We have been working directly with the team to ensure they are working within the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) to promote well-being. MCA documentation has been revised and briefings given to staff with a new provider coming in to give ongoing training across the service.    

"We have developed an action plan to ensure that all the recommendations in the report are met. We will also update members on the action plan at Governance and Ethics Committee."

In addition to apologising and changing MCA procedures, Nottinghamshire will pay the wife £500 to acknowledge the distress caused by the situation, and the daughter £250 to acknowledge her time and trouble in bringing the complaint.

Adam Carey

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