Council agrees to review processes after visually impaired woman was left without social care

Leicestershire County Council has agreed to improve how it prepares social care and support plans after a severely visually impaired woman was left without the day-to-day support she needed for 21 months.

The woman looked after herself without support for a significant period, which left her at risk of burning herself when cooking, and falling. She was also not provided with support to access the community and do her shopping, which increased the isolation she felt.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was asked to investigate the woman’s situation by a representative of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) who supported her through the process, after it first complained to the council on her behalf.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found that in March 2020, the woman was assessed as having eligible support needs in areas including food, personal hygiene, being able to use her home safely and accessing the community.

Despite this, no support was offered to her until April 2021 when the council agreed to set her a personal budget for 12 hours a week support. Further assessments were made, and the council finally agreed a package of support which started at the end of January 2022.

Following the RNIB’s initial complaint, the council said the woman had declined support during the pandemic. But during the Ombudsman’s investigation it became clear this was not the case.

The Ombudsman’s investigation criticised the council for the lack of support it provided to the woman, and for the delays she faced when the council assessed her care needs and prepared her care and support plan. The investigation also found fault with the way the council handled its financial assessments including arranging the woman’s personal budget.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:“The lack of social care support over 21 months has had a significant impact on this woman’s life – she has burnt herself frequently when trying to cook and has also had several falls.

“She has also not been able to socialise without the support which she was entitled to, and this has led to her feeling isolated and lonely.

“I’m pleased Leicestershire County Council has accepted the recommendations I have made to improve its processes. I hope the changes it will make on the back of this woman’s case will ensure other people with eligible needs are not left to fend for themselves without the support they need in future.”

The council has agreed to apologise to the woman and pay her £2,500 for the distress and risk of harm to which she was exposed. It will also pay her £7,220 for the services she missed out on and a further £300 to recognise her distress and frustration with the delay in arranging social care support.

The council has also agreed to review its processes to ensure preparing care and support plans for residents with eligible care needs is an integral part of the assessment process, and to make frontline staff aware of the timescales.

Finally, the council will review all care needs assessments completed between March 2020 and March 2021 to identify any where no support was provided, despite eligible care needs being identified. Staff will also be reminded to keep records when making decisions for disability related expenditure and waiving care charges.

Picture (c) Leicestershire County Council.