London Borough of Redbridge is found to be at fault for unjustified delays in reviewing care packages

Decision Date:  28/01/22

What happened

Mr B had two daughters (Miss C and Miss D). The Council assessed them as having eligible care and support needs. It set up two care packages through direct payments. Miss C and Miss D were found to require 28 hours a week of personal care. Extra care support was assigned to them for holidays (when they did not attend college).

In January 2020, college became unsuitable for Miss C and Miss D. The community nurse asked for a social worker to be assigned to them.

In March 2020, Mr B emailed the Council asking for help and an assessment to identify a suitable college/day centre for Miss C and Miss D. The Council did not respond.

In July 2020, a social worker had still not been assigned and Mr B was advised to call the Council to discuss the issues.

In August 2020, Mr B emailed the Council. He asked for a social worker to assess Miss C’s and Miss D’s needs as they were no longer attending college. The Council called Mr B back on the 6th August but did not reach him or receive a response.

On the 26th August 2020, Mr B sent another email to the Council asking for it to review his daughters’ care packages – he said that Miss C and Miss D needed more support to access community activities.

A social worker was assigned to the cases. The social worker agreed that Miss C and Miss D would benefit from extra support to access community activities. The social worker presented the cases to the resource allocation meeting – she asked for more funding for social stimulation and day services. The panel asked the social worker to complete a carer’s assessment and explore the existing direct payments packages. They also requested for an occupational therapist to complete functional assessments.

The occupational therapist completed her initial assessment in December 2020. She planned on arranging a home visit to complete a functional assessment. At this point, Mr B still had not been provided with additional support. He raised a formal complaint.

In January 2021, the social worker completed a carer’s assessment but the occupational therapist was redeployed to work in a hospital due to COVID-19 and so was delayed in completing the functional assessment.

The Council, aware of Mr B’s struggle, agreed for the social worker to return to the panel and present to it with the OT’s initial assessments and the social worker’s own assessment. The panel then asked for the social worker to complete an NHS Continuing Healthcare Checklist (CHC) and to make a referral for a full assessment. This assessment would serve to assess whether Miss C and Miss D were eligible for CHC funding. The panel also requested for the occupational therapist’s functional assessment to be completed.

In February 2021, the Council answered a complaint from Mr B – it did not uphold the complaint as it was currently reviewing the case. The occupational therapist completed her functional assessment in which she recommended that Miss C and Miss D attend day services regularly. 

The social worker also completed the CHC checklist. The checklist was sent to the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in April. The social worker then left meaning the case needed reallocating to another social worker.

In June 2021, a new social care worker was assigned to the case. He arranged an assessment with Mr B – Mr B claimed this was not necessary as the previous social worker had completed a CHC assessment already.

The social worker completed a further CHC assessment in August and concluded that Miss C and Miss D’s previous care packages did not meet their needs. The social worker recommended that Miss C and Miss D attend a day centre to stimulate them.

In September 2021, the Council agreed to fund a day centre, five days a week, for Miss C and Miss D. It also agreed to increase the care packages to 40 hours per week each (from 28 hours each).

 

What was found

The LGO found as follows:

  • The Council was at fault for missing opportunities to review Miss C and Miss D’s care packages in due time. It was aware of the need to review the case as early as January 2020 – it only started to act in August 2020.
  • The occupational therapist and social worker completed their assessments in February 2021. The two month delay in sending the CHC checklist once it was ready was not reasonable.
  • In April 2021, the Council said it would allocate a new social worker to the case – it did so only after a two month delay (after prompting).

The ombudsman found that the Council was at fault for these delays. These delays caused Mr B, Miss C and Miss D a significant injustice, and distress:

  • Mr B suffered mental and physical distress from having to take on extra caring responsibilities. Mr B was unable to work and enjoy a social life during this period.
  • Miss C and Miss D suffered from the lack of support they received for their needs.

Lastly, Mr B claimed he had to overspend on the direct payments package to allow his daughters to attend a day centre once a week while he was waiting for the Council to approve the funding (from February 2021). However, the Ombudsman found no evidence of overspending by Mr B: the Council allowed Mr B to use the direct payments flexibly and pay for the day centre out of the existing packages while he was waiting for the increased funding to be approved.

To remedy this, the Council must (by February 2022):

  • Apologise to Mr B, Miss C and Miss D.
  • Pay Mr B £800: this is to compensate Mr B for his time and expenditure.
  • Pay Miss C and Miss D £650 each: this will compensate for the distress and upset they experienced.
  • Issue written reminders to relevant staff to ensure they must act without unreasonable delays. 

Points to note for councils, professionals, people using services and their carers, advocacy groups, members of the public. 

Section 27 of the Care Act 2014 requires review of care and support plans to be completed upon reasonable request. As such, the lack of reason for the many delays in this case is inappropriate. The Council’s lack of response to Mr B’s emails, the unexplained delays in reports being submitted, and the slow response time by staff are all instances of this and it would have likely been seen as unconscionable delay had the matter gone to court, instead.

This report could well have been brought to a prompter conclusion if the father had had the benefit of legal advice which could have flagged up the relevant legal principles for the Monitoring Officer to consider and then discharge his or her statutory duty under s5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

Since the date of the facts in this case, there is High Court authority as to the principles that should have been followed, and the LGSCO will simply be able to refer to those in the future: the Croydon case, involving an increase in a woman’s needs after leaving college, as well: see here  P, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Croydon [2022] EWHC 2886 (Admin) (15 November 2022).

If you want help, please consider seeking advice from CASCAIDr via our referral form on the top bar menu of the site.

The full Local Government Ombudsman report on the actions of London Borough of Redbridge Council can be found here: https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/adult-care-services/assessment-and-care-plan/21-003-768

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