North Yorkshire County Council has lost more than £11,000 of taxpayers’ money after admitting failing to properly advise how a vulnerable woman’s finances would be assessed.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published a report outlining its findings into the complaint about the authority, which resulted in the complainant becoming responsible for her full care costs.
The costly error follows the authority underlining how the multi-billion pound increase in grant funding for local government announced by the Chancellor in the autumn did “not mean we are out of the woods as the pressures we face, particularly in adult social care… continue to rise”.
The ombudsman’s report said the council’s failing meant the value of the woman’s second property was taken into account, rather than being “disregarded” from the sum of her assets.
The report also highlights how the woman’s daughter had complained the council met with her mother to discuss her finances without her being present and persuaded the vulnerable woman to sign a deferred payment agreement.
It states: “Mrs B also complained that although the council has dealt with her as her mother’s representative for many years, as her mother does not have capacity, it refused to provide her with a copy of the deferred payment agreement or discuss the charges with her.
“Mrs C went from paying nothing more than her assessed contribution towards her care to paying £3,600 a month. This caused Mrs B and Mrs C significant distress as they cannot afford to pay that much, and Mrs B is concerned she will be made homeless in the future as she lives in Mrs C’s property.”
The ombudsman concluded the woman had suffered “injustice”, and under the 1974 Local Government Act, the council has had to lay the report before a committee, place two public notice announcements in local newspapers, make copies of the critical report available free of charge and tell the ombudsman actions it will take in response.
The ombudsman has issued some eight recommendations to the authority, including explaining why its approach to the treatment of property within its policy had changed, who authorised the change and whether any assessment of the impact on vulnerable service-users was done.
The recommendations also call on the council to waive charges to the woman and pay compensation for distress caused and to identify other other cases where it has removed a property disregard from a service user since April 2019.
The report states: “If the council finds fault similar to that identified in this it should follow the principles that the ombudsman has set out to remedy any injustice caused.”
A council spokesman said there was a total of six other cases where it had also removed a property disregard from a service user since April 2019.
He said it had accepted the ombudsman’s recommendations and recognised “there are improvements to be made in some of the practices and processes, some of which have already been implemented”.