Councils are being reminded by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman that vulnerable people can choose who supports them through care reviews, after Suffolk County Council halted assessments for a couple’s care plans because of a dispute.
The couple, who are deafblind, wanted their support worker to attend meetings with the council to discuss care package reviews.
But Suffolk County Council declined the request, saying it was not appropriate for the support worker to attend, and argued that they wanted an independent advocate there instead.
While the dispute took place, the council halted the assessments for the couple’s care and support plans.
The couple then complained to the ombudsman, which found flaws in the council’s assessments of the couple.
It has also found the council at fault for excluding the couple’s support worker from the support review meetings, and for saying it could not complete the couple’s care and support plans while there was an ongoing complaint.
The council has accepted most of the Ombudsman’s findings, but has yet to accept it was wrong to exclude the support worker from the meetings.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said: “Statutory guidance says when assessing people and revising their care and support plans they can have any other person they want involved.
“While the council was right to identify the need for an independent advocate because, as a paid employee, the couple’s support worker could not fulfil that role, but that did not mean it could exclude her from meetings to discuss the couple’s care and support plans.
“I now urge Suffolk County Council to consider my report and its findings and complete its assessment of the couple.”
The ombudsman has asked the council to apologise to the couple and pay them £500 for the distress they have been caused.
The council has also been
told to apologise to the support worker and pay her £250 for the trouble she
has been put to in pursuing the complaint.
“It should also reassess the couple’s needs and update their care and support plans, and ensure they are supported by their support worker, if that is what they want, through the assessment and planning process,” the ombudsman said.
A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: “The Ombudsman found that there had been fault on the part of Suffolk County Council and we have agreed to take appropriate action, which the Ombudsman regards as satisfactory.
“We will now consider the report and tell the Ombudsman within three months what we propose to do. The Audit Committee will meet on July 24 to discuss the matter.”