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Two councils accused of ‘fundamental failures’ in care planning process

Two councils were accused of fundamentally failing to support a man through the care planning process by not taking an overview of his needs and working together to determine the best outcome – instead leaving him in limbo for over three years after he suffered from a stroke.

According to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO), Warwickshire County Council and Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council were both at fault for leaving a man, still in his forties, in a care home for far too long instead of finding a way to ensure he could live independently.

The man suffered from a stroke in December 2012 and was placed in a care home six months later as he required 24-hour support, but he was unhappy with the situation because he wanted to live independently.

The county council met with him in early 2014 to discuss his situation and decided extra care housing was his best option, but the borough council didn’t have extra care schemes available. There was also no place available at a care home with greater access to the community and general activities.

No formal capacity assessment was undertaken to conclude whether the man lacked the mental capacity regarding his own care needs and accommodation in the meantime.

He was forced to remain in the care home until March 2015, when he was once again hospitalised with an infection and refused to return to the accommodation, still voicing his desire to live independently. Although his social worker thought he lacked the insight into the kind of support he needed, no formal assessment was carried out to determine this.

The man later moved to a different care home in May 2015 and, six months later, the borough council’s extra care housing panel rejected his application for extra care housing because he did not meet the criteria.

He continued to contact the borough council over the months that followed and bid on properties more suitable for him, but only managed to gain a tenancy in December 2016.

Michael King, the Ombudsman, argued that it is “not enough” for social workers to deny people that opportunity to make their own life decisions “and simply act on their belief that something is in a person’s best interests without making a formal assessment”.

“In this case the man made clear his unhappiness at being left in a care home when he wanted to live in the community, and has had the injustice of not knowing whether he could have moved to live independently sooner had both authorities acted appropriately,” added King.

A spokesperson for Warwickshire County Council said the local authority was “very sorry” that the social work practice in this case “did not meet our usual high standards”, admitting that there was “considerable unnecessary suffering caused to the individual concerned by our actions”.

The authority has paid the man £2,000 in compensation that the LGO recommended.

“It is important that we learn from this case and reduce the risk of anything similar in the future,” the spokesperson continued. “We have therefore implemented a number of measures to improve practice in undertaking MCA assessments, including providing additional training, and identifying experts in MCA from our staff group who can support all frontline staff and managers to improve their knowledge and understanding.”

Cllr Julie Jackson, portfolio holder with responsibility for housing at Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council, agreed that her organisation was “very sorry” that services had failed to meet the standards expected by the public.

“The findings of the LGO have prompted us to review working practices between Warwickshire County Council Adult Social Care and Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council Housing colleagues, to ensure that the frustrations and service delays experienced by the complainant are not repeated,” said Cllr Jackson.


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