A local authority has been ordered to pay £20,000 in care fees after a probe found that it had taken too long to assess a vulnerable woman’s needs.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman had been tasked with investigating Hackney Council amid concerns about its handling of a case.
The watchdog ruled that the council had taken too long to complete a care assessment, under-funded the resident’s needs for some months and become embroiled in an argument with a neighbouring authority about who was responsible for the case.
Ombudsman Michael King was highly critical of the way the matter had been dealt with and hoped that other councils would “learn lessons” from the investigation.
“Hackney’s delay left a family with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the council would foot the bill for her care,” he said.
“It should not have taken both a solicitor’s letter and my investigation for the council to recognise its duties towards her.
“It is imperative people in need are assessed in a timely fashion. Any doubts about that person’s residency should be referred to the Secretary of State.”
The Ombudsman had heard that the pensioner, who was living with dementia, had been informed she would not be able to return home following a hospital stay more than four years ago.
For a few months the woman lived with her daughter, who had arranged for daily care visits. When this became unsustainable, the woman was moved to a care home outside Hackney for respite.
It took Hackney ten months to carry out an assessment of the woman’s needs and the council finally agreed to fund the placement from October 2015, but refused to cover the costs incurred prior to that point.
This prompted a complaint from the family and the Ombudsman has ruled the local authority should in fact cover the bills dating back almost another 12 months – to November 2014.
A council spokeswoman said: “Lessons have been learnt to ensure there are ongoing discussions with loved ones in situations like this and we urge people to let us know of any change to their circumstances as and when they arise.”