“Mrs X is a disabled pensioner who lives alone in rented accommodation. She was born with cerebral palsy, has no sight in one eye and has had two strokes. She also has asthma and bronchiectasis which cause shortness of breath. These conditions limit her mobility and restrict her range of movement. She says she sometimes loses consciousness and has falls in the home. She is prone to bladder infections and uses incontinence pads.”
Despite there being no change in her needs the council reduced her care package, and then back dated the reduction for four months. This meant that she had no money in her direct payment account to pay her care assistants. The council also failed to provide her with a copy of her revised package.
The ombudsman in his report finds ‘across the board’ maladministration – that:
- the care package reduction was driven by the Council’s wish to reduce the cost of the package rather than any identified change in Mrs X’s care and support needs;
- the funding Panel gave the social worker a clear direction to reduce the length of the home care visits;
- that Mrs X was not given an opportunity to express her views on the proposed reduction in hours and the social worker did not try to seek her agreement;
- the reductions were arbitrary – being based on no concrete evidence.
Sadly it appears that arbitrary reductions of care packages are now commonplace – and that only those who manage to cope with the delay and the barriers that litter the complaints processes, have the prospect of having these injustices acknowledged.
If this were a court judgment (and not an ombudsman report) one would have expected the judge to lambast the local authority for its disregard of the law and its breath-taking insensitivity to the needs of the complainant. The ombudsman for some reason doesn’t do ‘indignation’: the report finds ‘fault’ and that is about it.
Maybe indignation and admonishment are old fashioned – and the focus of reports should be to inform councils of their ‘faults’ and to assume these faults were innocent mistakes. Maybe – but maybe in cases such as this, social justice requires a public expression of shock: of shock on behalf of Mrs X and also on behalf of those of us who find the facts of this case shaming.
 Complaint no 19 001 770 against Walsall MBC, 2 December 2019.