National Ombudsmen
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West Sussex County Council mishandled care costs assessment

West Sussex County Council has been criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) for the way in which it assessed a woman on her contributions towards her care costs.

The LGO found in its report that the council didn’t follow government guidance, and took 18 months to decide that the woman’s financial interest in a property she owned jointly with her daughter had little value.

Initially the council had decided that the woman was entitled to an equal share of the home, which therefore should be sold to help fund the cost of her residential care.

The LGO has recommended that the council review any other cases in which it has calculated financial assessments in the same manner and report back to the Ombudsman. It should also make a full apology to the complainants (the woman’s daughter and partner), contribute towards legal costs incurred, and make a payment for the anxiety caused whilst the property was under threat.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said:

“The actions of the council, in particular its hesitancy in making decisions, caused significant stress to the complainants which could have otherwise been avoided. It threatened to take legal action, which it later retracted, meaning the complainants had to prepare for a court case that never took place.

“Had the Council discussed it decisions and explained it processes more clearly, it could have resolved matters much more swiftly and in all likelihood avoided the need for the complainants to seek legal advice.”

The investigation concerned a property, which the woman and her daughter owned but were holding on trust for themselves as joint tenants, and on which they had agreed a personal covenant not to sell or transfer any of their share of it, besides to each other. This was because the daughter had in effect loaned her mother the majority of the money to pay for her share of the property, in order to ensure that her parents felt a sense of ownership of the home by having their name on the legal title.


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