National Ombudsmen
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Shropshire Council criticised for social care complaint

Shropshire Council failed to offer effective support for a man who was providing 24 hour care for his wife.

The Local Government Ombudsman, in a report issued recently, has recommended that the council apologise to the couple for not properly considering their needs, and make a payment of over £60,000.

The Ombudsman’s investigation throws into the spotlight the issue of blurred boundaries between formal and informal care – often provided by a family member – and how the needs of the carer can be overlooked.

The case against Shropshire Council found that there was strong evidence that the complainant’s wife required 24 hour attention for her complex mental health problems, which her husband was mostly providing. In fact between March 2008 and April 2010 the council only provided direct payments to employ a carer for 50 hours per week.

The Ombudsman found that the council did not carry out a formal assessment of the needs of the complainant’s wife, resulting in an ad-hoc programme of care based around how it could support the husband to work full-time and care for his wife. In the interim, the husband lost his job, pension contributions and career prospects, as a result of the inaction of the council.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

“It is common for family members to provide or contribute towards the social care of loved ones, but the needs of the carer themselves are more easily overlooked, and this is something I am concerned that councils can over-rely on.

“If local authorities carry out their obligations properly as assessors and commissioners of social care needs, then these instances can be avoided. In the Shropshire case, the needs of the husband as a carer should have been assessed separately – it wasn’t until he raised the fact himself that he couldn’t possibly work 50 hours a week whilst providing round-the-clock support for his wife without a break, that they were actually considered.”

In the complex world of social care provision, the Local Government Ombudsman’s jurisdiction covers all aspects of social care complaints. This means the public has the reassurance that the LGO is also a ‘social care ombudsman’ – a single point of contact to deal with social care issues that have not been resolved through the council or service provider’s own complaints process.

The Local Government Ombudsman has recommended the council makes a payment of £61,270 in recognition of the care provided which was not funded by the Council at the appropriate time. It should also apologise for the delay in dealing with the complaint, review its complaint handling procedures, as well as pay £1,000 for the time and trouble taken pursuing the complaint.

Is Public Sector Performance Management due an appraisal? - Webinar I Tuesday, 2nd July 2019 1:00pm BST