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27.06.16

Councils must ‘properly’ support carers who want to work, says LGO

Councils should do more to support working parents of children with disabilities, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has ruled after Kent County Council was required to pay £1,000 in compensation for stopping support payments to the mother of two disabled children.

The woman received direct payments from Kent County Council, which she used to ‘bank’ paying for carers to ensure she had care for her elder child, aged 16 at the time, who attended a boarding school, during the school holidays.

Following an assessment in February 2013, the council said that direct payments should only be used to meet a child’s needs, not to allow a parent to work. It said the woman should use her annual leave to care for her children in the holidays, despite the fact that she had already had to use part of her leave entitlement to attend her sons’ health, education and social care appointments and did not have enough days off.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: “Government guidance is very clear that authorities should give consideration to carers who want to work.

“Councils won’t necessarily have to provide additional support, but they do need to assess people’s individual situations properly. In this case Kent County Council applied a blanket policy and did not consider the rather unique circumstances of this family.”

She said that the council did not look at the needs of the family holistically, or consider that the care needs of a 16-year-old were different from those of a younger child.

Kent County Council has now agreed to revise its direct payments policy, review the sufficiency of childcare and range of short breaks available for older disabled children and provide training for officers and managers carrying out social care.

Andrew Ireland, Kent County Council corporate director of social care, health and wellbeing, said: “KCC applied its direct payments policy in good faith to meet the assessed needs of the child in this case. However, we accept that we did not exercise sufficient discretion in relation to our policy to take into account the individual circumstances of the family and the needs and wishes of the main carer to go to work.

“We also regret the time it took to pursue this complaint. As a result of this report, we will be reviewing the wording of our policy to reflect this judgement.

“Social care is under huge pressures from increased demand and reduced funding and it is essential, in applying our direct payments policy, that we continue to make sure we use our available resources in the best way possible to meet the care and support needs of our residents.”

Earlier this year, councils warned that social care is ‘at breaking point’ because of funding cuts and pressures on services.

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