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Ombudsman raps council for ‘copying and pasting’ earlier needs assessment

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman has criticised a London borough for relying heavily on a report of a woman’s needs which had been carried out some months previously.

The LGO accused Hounslow Council of ‘copying and pasting’ certain sections of the previous report for the new report, and criticised the authority for delays in dealing with the family’s complaints.

The LGO investigation examined the way social workers from the council assessed a woman when her family applied for a deferred payment agreement (DPA) to pay for her care home fees.

The woman’s family had contacted the council for financial help when they decided she could no longer live independently. Although the woman had been living out of borough for some time, she still owned a house in Hounslow.

The council carried out an assessment but decided that she was no longer ‘ordinarily resident’ in the borough, as she had voluntarily moved out of the borough some years before.

Hounslow said she would need to apply for the deferred payment agreement to the council in whose borough she now lived.

Some months later the woman moved to a care home in Hounslow. The council completed an assessment of her needs, but argued it could meet those needs in the community with a suitable support package in place and so would not agree to a DPA.

This meant the woman’s family had to pay for her care. They then complained to the Ombudsman once their finances became strained, the LGO said.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the second assessment had not considered the woman’s needs might have changed in the intervening period since the first assessment.

Hounslow has agreed to: .

  1. apologise to the family;
  2. pay £350 to the woman’s sister for her distress and time and trouble in trying to resolve the issue;
  3. remind relevant staff of the importance of carrying out independent assessments and recording them accurately;
  4. reassess the woman and offer her a DPA from November 2016, and
  5. arrange the back payment of fees paid by the family for the woman’s care.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Councils can only make informed decisions about the level of support people need if they are based on the most up-to-date assessments of care.

“Care needs can change and fluctuate, even within the space of a few months, so it is not appropriate to make decisions on historic reports.

“I’m pleased Hounslow council have accepted my recommendations to remedy the case, and hope that by reminding staff of the importance of timely assessments this situation will not happen again.”

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