A decision was made by the Local Government Ombudsman to recommend an award £135,617.02 to a disabled man (Mr X) and his mother (Ms Y). This case involved a man in his thirties who has severe learning disabilities, autism, and asphasia, who lived in Cornwall between 2008 and 2012.
The award was made by the Local Government Ombudsman, who investigate complaints about the services and actions of councils and certain other bodies. If there has been fault, the Ombudsman considers whether it has caused an injustice and if it has, they may suggest a remedy. In this case the remedy suggested for the injustice was a payment of over £135,000 in backdated payments from Cornwall Council to the complainant.
Ms Y had filed a series of complaints to Cornwall Council dating back to 2008 in relation to obtaining the necessary care needs assessments and provisions of care. In March 2012 the Local Government Ombudsman found fault in the way in which the care provisions and assessment of needs of Mr X had been dealt with. As a component of the recommendations offered by the Local Government Ombudsman, CornwallCouncil carried out an assessment of Mr X's needs in June 2012. Not only was that four months after the Ombudsman's recommendation but it was also the first proper assessment that had been carried out on Mr X, even though he moved to Cornwall in 2008. As standard procedure, the Ombudsman regards four to six weeks as a reasonable time in which to complete a community care assessment.
In this case, Liz Conroy of Conroys Solicitors represented Mr X and Ms Y. Liz has considerable experience and expertise in advising and representing clients and their families in connection with mental capacity as well as public law issues.
The ultimate decision of the Local Government Ombudsman followed two separate complaints to them.The Local Government Ombudsman decided ( following an appeal) that Cornwall Council delayed in carrying out a fresh social care assessment of need and that it did not offer a suitable financial remedy as agreed in the outcome to the original complaint in 2010.
Since the Ombudsman findings, Cornwall Council have offered sincere apologies for their shortcomings by stating that ,"We accept the ombudsman's findings in full and have apologised unreservedly to the family for the delay in carrying out the social care assessments and in devising a care plan."
The shortcomings of Cornwall Council caused understandable distress to Mr X and his family.
Taking into account the findings of the Local Authority Ombudsman and the penalty imposed on Cornwall Council, this type of case should act as a warning to local bodies that there will be severe consequences for failing to provide sufficient services to those in need. We recommend that if concerns arise regarding a failure of services of a public body or issues arise relating to the Mental Capacity Act 2005, that independent legal advice should be sought at an early stage.
Please do not hesitate to contact Conroys for advice relating to any matter raised in this article.