Watchdog raps council over ‘distress’ caused to carers

Ombudsman orders council to pay compensation to couple after delayed care assessment, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A couple caring for a relative with complex health needs suffered “distress and frustration” because Enfield Council delayed a care assessment, a watchdog has found.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman told the council to pay £200 in compensation for the delays – which came during the Covid-19 pandemic when the resident was unable to visit her day care centre – and “poor communication”.

A report by the ombudsman states that the resident, referred to only as Mrs B, lives at home with her son and daughter-in-law and needs help with daily activities such as her mobility and personal care.

Her daughter-in-law is her private carer, and she also received extra care from a day centre every week until it closed in mid-March 2020 because of Covid and lockdown restrictions.

Under the Care Act, councils must carry out an assessment for any adult with an appearance of need for care and support. They must also produce a plan that includes a personal budget, which is the money the council has worked out it will cost to arrange the necessary care and support.

Before the pandemic, Mrs B’s personal budget was around £1,039. But in May 2020, her son asked the council to review the hours of support that were in place because his wife was providing his mother with more care following the day centre closure.

He made another request for a review in June. In November, the council cut the personal budget to £621.18 following an annual review of Mrs B’s care and support needs. It removed the cost of the escort and transport services to the day centre and clawed back payments it had made since its closure.

But four months later, her son asked for an interim review after his mother’s care and support needs increased. The council agreed and said she met the threshold for specialist residential care, which would cost under £750 per week. But her son said he wanted his mother to stay at home, and the council agreed a budget of £743 per week.

This story is published by Enfield Dispatch, Enfield's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

The ombudsman found that only in April 2021 – nearly a year after the initial request – did the council consider the request to review the extra support being provided to Mrs B while the day care centre was closed, and the delay caused “distress and frustration” to her son and his wife.

It subsequently apologised and paid an additional lump sum to reflect the extra support.

Because the council had an agreement in place with the day care centre to continue providing funding in order to prevent it from shutting down permanently, it required Mrs B to carry on paying for her placement.

But it did not tell her son about this until November 2020, when it reviewed his mother’s care and support needs. The ombudsman found the council’s communication with her son was “poor” and caused him “distress and frustration”.

Mrs B was able to return to the day centre in July 2021. But after her care and support needs subsequently increased “significantly”, meaning she had to stop attending, it upped her budget to £850 per week.

The council agreed to pay Mrs B’s son £200 after the watchdog found it was at fault over the delays and poor communication. The ombudsman said there was “no fault in the way the council assessed Mrs B’s care and support needs and how it determined her personal budget”.

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, day centres in the borough unfortunately had to close for a limited period of time and this placed additional burdens on family carers despite the council’s best efforts to provide additional tailored support to families. The closures also led to an increase in staff workloads across adult social care services, who prioritised those most in need.

“Due to these unfortunate circumstances that were beyond the council’s control, there was a delay in reviewing the resident’s situation. While the council is pleased the ombudsman found no fault in its decision-making, it accepts the ombudsman’s decision and has apologised to the family involved.”

We know times are hard

If you are struggling to make ends meet, we are keeping Enfield Dispatch free because of you. We know that many people cannot afford to pay for local news, so this website and our print paper will always be free. If you can afford to, and value what we do, a small monthly, yearly or one-off contribution can support us to keep providing quality journalism for Enfield to our community for free.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month. £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.  

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or yearly 

More Information about donations