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Havering Council's mismanagement of care funds left woman with dementia covering shortfalls with her own savings

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 January 2020

The local ombudsman found that Havering Council failed in managing a woman's care. Picutre: John Stillwell/PA

The local ombudsman found that Havering Council failed in managing a woman's care. Picutre: John Stillwell/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

A woman with advanced dementia had to use her own savings to cover care costs after Havering Council failed to provide her with a sufficient budget, an investigation has found.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) made its conclusions in September last year regarding an investigation into the care of a woman in the borough in 2018, but the report was not published publicly until this month due to legal reasons.

The woman, referred to as Mrs Y in the report, has advanced dementia and was living at home with privately funded homecare until July 2018.

After discovering that her funds were below the threshold to help with care fees, Havering Council conducted an assessment which revealed that Mrs Y was at risk of falls, self-neglect, causing harm to herself and wandering.

On November 30 the council agreed funding for a live-in carer at a standard weekly cost of £854 and backdated the funding to November 16, 2018.

The ombudsman found the council was aware that none of the agencies on its provider list provided live-in care at the council rates.

This left Mrs Y having to top up her payments in May 2019 and was recorded as having paid £853.16 during the month.

The Care Act statutory guidance states that local authorities, "should not set arbitrary upper limits on the costs it is willing to pay to meet needs through certain routes - doing so would not deliver an approach that is person-centred or compatible with public law principles".

Havering not only set an arbitrary upper limit on Mrs Y's costs, but it also didn't backdate the payments to the correct date of October 2018 - the point at which the council agreed to fund from.

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The LGO report reveals a number of faults by the council, including not backdating payments for care, causing the woman's daughter "unnecessary stress and frustration" by requiring her to chase the council for responses, and waiting six weeks to carry out an urgent assessment of the woman's capacity to make decisions about her accommodation and care which left her at risk.

The LGO stated in the report: "The council failed to ensure Mrs Y's personal budget was sufficient to cover her care and support needs.

"This caused an injustice to Mrs Y and to her daughter who pursed the matter on Mrs Y's behalf."

Havering agreed to reimburse the woman in full for the amount she paid to cover the shortfall and a further £250 for the trouble the family had gone to pursue the complaint.

A Havering Council spokeswoman said: "We're very sorry for the distress that this has caused our resident and her family.

"Our adult social care team has worked closely with the family to act on the ombudsman's findings and have remedied our error."

The ombudsman asked that Havering undertake a reassessment of Mrs Y's personal budget and provide the woman's daughter with a written apology for the failings identified in the report.

Havering must also consider if more people have been affected by arbitrary upper limits on care fee rates and take any necessary action to address this.

The council spokeswoman added: "We've worked to identify other residents who may have been affected by historical upper financial limits to ensure their needs are properly met, and in the majority of cases the direct payment package has been appropriate.

"New cases are assessed and care needs are funded according to their need.

"Current practice already ensures the correct balance between meeting the person's needs and paying the appropriate amounts for care."

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