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Ombudsman raps council after stroke survivor left without support she needed

A Worcestershire woman who had a stroke was left without appropriate care for 12 months because the county council took too long to set up her direct payments, an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has concluded.

The situation came about after the council referred the woman to Penderels, a company acting on behalf of the council, to help her recruit a personal assistant. However, case notes suggest the woman struggled to fill out financial forms because of her disability.

The woman's social care assessment was finalised in August 2021, setting out the support she needed, but the woman said this was incorrect.

The council sent a direct payment agreement to the woman to sign, but she could not do so because of her disability. She was eventually helped to sign, but the council further delayed setting up the payments, according to the Ombudsman.

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The direct payments had not been set up by the time the Ombudsman started investigating in January 2022.

The Ombudsman found the council at fault for taking too long to complete the woman's social care assessment and her care and support plan, and it failed to put in place her direct payments in a timely fashion.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: "While I appreciate the pressures councils are under, and particularly during the time in question, the delay in this case is unacceptable. I am also concerned the council sought to blame the woman for not co-operating with its officers, when there was no evidence to support this."

In light of the findings, the Ombudsman recommended the council apologise to the woman and pay her £3,000 to reflect the impact of the lack of care and support. The Ombudsman also asked the council to keep it updated on putting in place the direct payment.

In addition, the council was asked to identify other cases where there was a delay in putting in place a direct payment and to remedy any injustice to those affected.

Responding to the investigation, Mark Fitton, Interim Strategic Director of People for Worcestershire, said: "We can confirm that the council commissioned Penderels to provide a support service for adults receiving a direct payment in Worcestershire. As part of a wider review of Direct Payments, in October last year, a different organisation was commissioned to take over the financial and support aspect of the service."

"We have apologised to the resident who raised the complaint regarding their direct payment and their support needs not being met. Throughout this process, we have offered the resident a number of alternative reablement options that would ensure their care needs are met including the use of care providers, but the resident has made it clear to us that direct payments remain their preferred option, so we are continuing to liaise with them over how to best support them going forward." 

Mr Fritton added: "We have accepted the recommendations given to the County Council from the Local Government Ombudsman as part of their report, and they are being worked through, including a wider review of the direct payments service."

The Local Government report will be presented to Cabinet in July.

Adam Carey

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