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Cornwall Council stopped payments for disabled woman’s care without organising alternative

A Cornish woman was left without the support she needed after the council told her she could not pay her daughter to care for her, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said.

The woman, who has significant and complex needs, had been using her direct payments to pay her daughter to provide care for her. But Cornwall Council told the family this was not allowed because the daughter lived with her.

The council said paid care could only be provided by a live-in family member in exceptional circumstances, where it could not be provided by an external agency. In this case, the council believed the mother’s care could be provided by an agency.

But the council did not put any alternative care support in place, so the daughter felt she had no choice but to provide significant unpaid care for her mother. This meant she was unable to find paid work and left her without enough breaks to have her own social life or regular time off to relax.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council at fault for stopping the mother’s direct payments without carrying out a needs and carer assessment or identifying an agency that could take over the care provided by the daughter.

The council eventually reimbursed the daughter for some of the period in which she provided care. However, the council has not provided the mother with the support it accepts she needs since February 2019. At the time of the initial investigation, it had not reinstated the direct payments, or even fully considered whether there were exceptional circumstances to do so.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:

“Councils have a duty to ensure people’s personal budgets are spent appropriately, but they cannot simply leave people without the care and support they need while looking for alternative solutions.

“By failing to provide a suitable alternative, the daughter felt she was left with no other option than to provide the care herself, to her own detriment.

“I am pleased the council has now agreed to all of my recommendations, which should ensure other people in the county are not affected in a similar way.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the woman and her daughter and pay the daughter an amount equivalent to that which she would have received had the council continued to pay for her for the care she provided between January 2019 and February 2020.

It has also agreed to review the mother’s circumstances and decide if it should allow her a direct payment to pay her daughter to arrange care and pay the mother and daughter £500 each for the distress they have suffered.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to share with its staff the lessons learned about direct payments and the use of medical evidence.

REPORT 19 004 581 Cornwall

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