Bedford Borough Council fined for ‘injustice’ caused by delayed care assessment


A Bedford borough resident suffered an ‘injustice’ as the council delayed providing a full assessment of their needs or a care plan, the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman said.

The ombudsman looks at individual complaints about councils, all adult social care providers (including care homes and home care agencies) and some other organisations providing local public services.

The resident, who has cerebral palsy, a mild learning disability and has needs for care and support, contacted the council in 2019,

She was living at home and wanted to live independently, but her family opposed this.

Local authorities must undertake a needs assessment for any adult with an appearance of need for care and support. Whether or not the local authority thinks the individual has eligible needs.

The resident said the council did not properly assess her needs, did not provide a care plan, and prioritised its budget over her needs.

She added that there were mistakes in the council’s referral to the housing team and the council failed to support her application for housing.

She said the council’s communications were poor and it did not listen to her.

The council told the ombudsman it had completed two assessments of the resident’s needs, which said her immediate needs were engagement with housing support, referral to an occupational therapist and recommendation to attend a day centre.

It said that the resident had other needs for care and support, but these “could not be addressed until suitable accommodation had been sourced”, adding that a needs assessment can be carried out over a long period of time in cases where changing circumstances, such as housing, can result in a change in how needs can be met.

The council said it carried out a comprehensive, professional Care Act assessment, and there has not been any need for a further assessment as there have not been any changes.

The summary of the ombudsman’s final decision said that the council delayed providing a full assessment of the resident’s needs or a care plan which sets out how to meet those needs.

The ombudsman added there was a failure in the council’s communications with the resident and with the housing team.

As a result, the resident did not know how her needs would be met if she moved out of her mother’s home.

The injustice, the ombudsman said, is the uncertainty of what would have been if things had been done correctly.

The ombudsman did take the later delays caused by the pandemic into consideration.

The council has agreed to apologise to the resident, provide her with a needs assessment, care plan and personal budget, and pay her £750.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said, “Bedford Borough Council has formally apologised to Mrs B and will comply with all the recommendations set out by the ombudsman.

“We always try to do our best to get things right first time for Bedford Borough residents. We take all complaints very seriously and are committed to learning from them.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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