The Ombudsman investigated the complaint about the London Borough of Hackney, finding it took too long to carry out a care assessment, under-funded many months’ worth of fees, and wasted time disputing responsibility with another council.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“Hackney’s delay in assessing this woman’s needs left a family with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the council would foot the bill for her care. It should not have taken both a solicitor’s letter and my investigation for the council to recognise its duties towards her.
“It is imperative that people in need are assessed in a timely fashion. And if there are any doubts about that person’s residency, it should be referred to the Secretary of State to decide.
“Hackney council has agreed to my recommendations and I hope other councils will learn from this complaint and ensure staff are aware of their proper duties when assessing care needs.”
The elderly woman, who had dementia, was told she could not return home after a stay in hospital in early 2014. Instead, her daughter said she could live in Hackney with her with the help of daily visits from carers.
Some months later, struggling with her caring commitments and her own ill health, the daughter placed her mother in a care home in a different borough, for what she believed was a period of respite.
When she asked London Borough of Hackney to reassess her mother’s care needs, she was told to speak to the borough in which her mother was now living. This second borough told the family the woman was still resident in Hackney. Some 10 months after the request was first made, Hackney carried out an assessment and found the mother needed significant help with aspects of her life including food and nutrition, toileting, dressing and staying safe.
Hackney council agreed to fund the mother’s placement from October 2015, but this still left a significant sum of unpaid care home fees. The family complained to the council via a solicitor. When they were not happy with the council’s response, they complained to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council took too long to assess the mother’s care needs, and should have paid the care home fees from November 2014, not October 2015. This was the point at which the council should have assessed the mother’s care needs.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.
In this case, the council agreed to settle the care home fees for the period between November 2014 and October 2015 – this amounts to £19,898 – and pay the family’s solicitor fees.