Ombudsman criticises council for stopping payments for disabled woman’s care without organising alternative

A Cornish woman was left without the support she needed after her local council told her she could not pay her daughter to care for her, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

The woman, who has significant and complex needs, had been using her direct payments to pay her daughter to provide care for her. But Cornwall Council told the family this was not allowed because the daughter lived with her.

The council said paid care could only be provided by a live-in family member in exceptional circumstances, where it could not be provided by an external agency. In this case, the council believed the mother's care could be provided by an agency.

But according to the report, Cornwall did not put any alternative care support in place, so the daughter felt she had no choice but to provide significant unpaid care for her mother. This meant she was unable to find paid work and left her without enough breaks to have her own social life or regular time off to relax.

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As a result, the Ombudsman found the council at fault for stopping the mother's direct payments without carrying out a needs and carer assessment or identifying an agency that could take over the care provided by the daughter.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said: "Councils have a duty to ensure people's personal budgets are spent appropriately, but they cannot simply leave people without the care and support they need while looking for alternative solutions.

"By failing to provide a suitable alternative, the daughter felt she was left with no other option than to provide the care herself, to her own detriment."

On top of reinstating the daughter's payments, Cornwall has reportedly apologised to the woman and her daughter and paid the daughter an amount equivalent to that which she would have received had the council continued to pay for her for the care she provided between January 2019 and February 2020.

An additional £500 each has been paid to the mother and daughter for the distress they have suffered.

According to a spokesperson, Cornwall has since accepted the full set of recommendations from the Ombudsman and reinstated payments to the daughter.

In a statement, Cornwall Council's portfolio holder for adults, Cllr Rob Rotchell said: "We apologise for any distress caused to the individuals involved.

"We have carried out all the recommendations in the report including reinstating the direct payments. We have worked extensively to engage with the family to ensure the right care is in place.

"We are sharing with our colleagues the lessons learned in this case about direct payments and the use of medical evidence."

Adam Carey

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