A Norfolk woman was left to care for an elderly vulnerable friend for months before he died while the county council delayed meeting his care, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has found.
The woman (Ms X), who had Power of Attorney for her friend (Mr Y), said she was happy to provide some care for Mr Y, who had dementia and a number of physical health conditions, but repeatedly told social workers she could not do it alone.
The LGSCO said the council assessed Mr Y as needing a significant amount of support, but could not decide how that care should be provided.
Instead, while it tried to decide on the most cost-effective package for Mr Y, the council failed to provide appropriate care, and relied on Ms X to help care for him, over and above what she was paid to provide. It also failed to explain how it charged differently for respite care leading to a large and unexpected bill
As a result, Mr Y’s health deteriorated, he had a fall and it caused strain to Ms X who had high blood pressure and heart problems.
Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said:
‘This man was clearly vulnerable and had numerous assessed care and support needs, yet Norfolk council did not meet them. It initially failed to implement plans that had been agreed, before going on to leave the man without an agreed plan altogether.
‘Councils are entitled to weigh up the cost of a proposed care package and to look at more economic options when deciding what to provide. But cost should not be the primary consideration, and councils should not leave people without the care they need while deferring decisions.
‘In this case, the council continually questioned the cost of providing the care package in his own home, where he wanted to remain, without proposing suitable alternatives.
‘All this left the man’s friend feeling she had no option but to provide more hours of care for him than she wanted to, or was being paid for, and this placed a significant strain on their relationship.’
The LGSCO said the council has agreed to apologise to the woman and pay her £2,000 to acknowledge the increased strain she was placed under by the council’s faults and to acknowledge the unpaid care she provided that was part of his assessed needs.
It also agreed to refund the man’s estate the expense of funding his own eligible care needs, estimated at around £4,000.
Director of social work, Craig Chalmers said: ‘Mr Y lived with a complex set of needs, requiring support from both our services and our NHS partners, and he absolutely deserved better in his final years.
‘While we were able to offer residential care, we were not able to provide a care package that met all of Mr Y’s needs.
‘We have written to Ms X to sincerely apologise for the additional stress placed up her during a difficult time, and I have offered to meet with her in person to apologise and assure her that the concerns she highlighted are being addressed.
‘We have carried out a number of changes since the failures this report highlights, and continue to ensure the lessons learned are put into practice. These will be considered in full and in public by Cabinet Members over the next few months.’
Photo Credit – Norfolk County Council