Watchdog finds Powys Council carer funding shortcomings

A watchdog has called for a change in the law after upholding a complaint by the grandparents of a severely disabled woman over funding of her 24 hour care.

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales ordered Powys council to apologise and pay compensation of £2,000.

Peter Tyndall said the council had been “negative and unhelpful,” with the woman, now 22, having to attend day services to receive funding.

The council accepted the report and is to implement the recommendations.

Mr Tyndall said the case highlighted a need to change the law, and he intended to write to the Welsh Assembly Government.

The grandparents, known as Mr and Mrs A, provide full-time care for their disabled granddaughter Miss B, while respite care is provided by Miss B’s aunt.

Miss B has “multiple and profound disabilities” arising from cerebral palsy and requires 24 hour care.

The complaints first date back to 2005, as she turned 18.

Mr Tyndall’s report said the grandparents complained that the council should have offered them a system called direct payments (DPs) when Miss B was a child.

If this had happened, they said, Miss B would have been able to continue to receive DPs as an adult, and would have helped provide care in a more flexible manner.

Instead, Miss B receives funding through the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which requires her to attend day services.

These are at set times every day and Mr and Mrs A said they and Miss B often found it difficult to attend.

Mr and Mrs A also complained about the manner in which the council had dealt with a subsequent application for DPs.
‘Negative and unhelpful’

The ombudsman found that the council should have offered DPs to Mr and Mrs A and had failed to consider Miss B’s case appropriately.

Another option was to fund her care via an independent trust, and although this was suggested in 2007 it was not followed up.

In his report, Mr Tyndall said the council should have considered the case “appropriately at an early stage”, and that the trust idea could have been agreed and saved the couple “several further years” in pursuing the issue with the council and more lately the ombudsman.

“It would also have enabled them to fund her care without having to rigidly attend all the day service sessions,” said Mr Tyndall.

“I cannot see that there was any meaningful attempt at a management level to resolve this issue despite the fact that managers in both the social services and legal services departments were aware of the situation. Instead the council’s response was negative and unhelpful.”

He was also concerned that in-depth discussions about Miss B’s long term care plans did not take place earlier, as she turned 18, and she moved from children’s to adult services within the council.

“These identified shortcomings amount to maladministration.

“I accept Mr and Mrs A’s view that DPs would have been easier for them to manage but the amendment to the legislation in Wales required to permit this in Miss B’s case is still pending. It is understandable that this remains a source of frustration for Mr and Mrs A.”

Mr Tyndall said this case highlighted the need for legislation to be updated in Wales to bring it in line with England, so those unable to consent to DPs were not excluded from accessing them.

The ombudsman recommended that the council apologise to Mr and Mrs A and pay them £2,000 for having to pursue their complaint, and the uncertainty caused for several years about the funding of Miss B’s care.

A Powys council spokesman said: “We have received a report issued by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales concerning a complaint against the council.

“The council has accepted the report and will be implementing the recommendations outlined by the ombudsman.”