National Ombudsmen
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Council fails to help care users maintain their homes

Hertfordshire County Council has been asked to review its social care practices to ensure it meets its Care Act duties to help people keep their home tidy.

An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council routinely telling people it would not fund support to maintain a habitable home, and that they should find the money themselves.

This contravenes the Care Act, which states being unable to maintain a habitable home environment is one of the key factors which may negatively affect a person’s quality of life.

The Ombudsman investigated a complaint from a woman who has various medical conditions, is cared for in bed, and receives support from the council to be cared for at home.

The council reassessed the woman when her needs changed in 2018 and said her care package could be streamlined and her personal budget reduced.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council’s reassessment did not properly define which of the woman’s needs were eligible for support. This makes it unclear for which of those needs the council had a duty to provide support.

The Ombudsman decided the woman likely did have an unmet eligible need for help maintaining her home. As she is cared for in bed and has very limited mobility, it was unlikely she would be able to manage cleaning and washing.

The council also failed to produce a care and support plan that complied with statutory guidance.

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

“In this case the council appears to have decided some needs are more important than others. This is contrary to the Care Act, which places equal importance on all eligible needs – it is designed to ensure councils do not pick and choose which they meet.

“I urge Hertfordshire County Council to reflect on my report and make the changes I have recommended. These are designed to both put things right for the woman, but also to improve its practices by bringing them in line with the Care Act.”

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 been asked to apologise to the woman and carry out a Care Act compliant assessment of her needs, including a decision on her eligibility. It should produce a proper care and support plan.

The council should also pay the woman £650 for failing to help her maintain a habitable home and £250 for her time and trouble complaining.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public.

In this case the council has been asked to provide evidence it has taken action to ensure:

  • all future assessments are Care Act compliant
  • everyone with eligible care needs has a care and support plan compliant with statutory guidance
  • it fulfils its duty to meet the need of maintaining a habitable home

The council should also produce a plan for identifying anyone else that has an unmet eligible need for help maintaining their home and to put right any cases uncovered.

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Original article link: https://www.lgo.org.uk/information-centre/news/2020/sep/council-fails-to-help-care-users-maintain-their-homes

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