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Ombudsman criticises council for reducing care package of autistic man because of financial pressures

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has criticised a county council after a man with autism was left relying on his parents to part-fund his care when the local authority cut his package without identifying a suitable alternative.

The Ombudsman said Nottinghamshire County Council “appeared to reduce the man’s budget for financial reasons – and compounded this by saying his budget may be cut again without considering his future needs”.

The man, who lives with his parents, had been receiving the same care package for 12 years. The LGO said he was settled and happy with his specialist care workers and, because of his autism, became distressed at the thought of his situation changing.

After an assessment, Nottinghamshire reduced the man’s care package significantly, leaving his parents to fund the difference to maintain their son’s continuity of care, and pay mileage costs.

The Ombudsman’s investigation criticised the council for not reviewing the man’s care package for three years, and for reducing it due to the cost being above the council’s standard rate.

It has also found the council at fault for not properly considering the mother’s needs as a carer for both her son and her sick husband.

The LGO said Nottinghamshire should:

  • apologise to the family
  • review the man’s assessment
  • produce a care and support plan which reflects his needs, explaining in detail how these needs will be met
  • make a symbolic payment of £1,000 and reimburse his parents for everything they have spent to top-up their son’s care
  • complete a new financial assessment and consider all relevant Disability Related Expenditure (DRE)
  • make a further symbolic payment of £1,000 to the man’s mother to acknowledge its failure to provide allocated respite funds, review her carer’s assessment and produce a support plan setting out how her needs will be met
  • consider if other people have been similarly affected and take any necessary action to address this
  • amend its policies, procedures and leaflets to address the Ombudsman’s concerns.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “In this case the council reduced the man’s care package so he had to fund the shortfall from his benefits, which even then were not enough. His parents had little choice but to cover the cost of this, despite their son’s level of care having not changed in more than 12 years.

“While councils can consider the financial cost when deciding how much to pay a person to meet their eligible needs, they cannot make care decisions based solely on those financial considerations. This is what Nottinghamshire appears to have done in this case."

Ainsley Macdonnell, Service Director at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “We accept the findings of the Ombudsman’s report. We have already apologised to the family for the distress this situation has caused them. We are working to comply with the recommendations and will report back on the actions we have taken.”  

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