February 2021 – Important Case on Direct Payments
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has criticised Cornwall County Council after it stopped making direct payments to a disabled woman which were used to pay her live-in carer daughter, then failed to organise alternative care.
The disabled woman had significant and complex needs and had been using her direct payments to pay her daughter to provide care for her. When the council found out, it told the family that paid care could only be provided by a live-in family member in exceptional circumstances.
However, despite stopping direct payments to the mother, it did not then put any alternative care support in place. As a result, the daughter felt compelled to provide significant unpaid care for more than 12 months, leaving her unable to find paid work.
The Ombudsman found the council at fault for stopping the direct payments without carrying out a needs and carer assessment or identifying an agency that could take over the care provided by the daughter. The council eventually reimbursed the daughter for some of the period in respect of which she provided care and offered the woman a commissioned care package.
Commenting on the case, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said councils have a duty to ensure personal budgets are spent appropriately, but they cannot simply leave people without the care and support they need while looking for alternative solutions.
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