DERBYSHIRE: Council told to apologise over distress caused to disabled woman

County Hall
County Hall

The county council has been forced to apologise to a disabled woman, after causing “distress” by heavily reducing the money she received to pay for personal care assistants.

In a report published by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO), Derbyshire County Council has found to have a series of “failings”.

The ombudsman told the authority to apologise to the woman, who has “physical disabilities” for “the distress it has caused and the time and trouble she has been put to in pursuing her complaint”.

The LGO handles complaints directed at councils and adult social care providers.

According to the report, the woman had received funding from both the county council (£345.86) and the Independent Living Fund (£494.92) on a weekly basis.

When the ILF closed in June 2015, the council hiked its own share to £841 a week to take on the majority of the shortfall which the woman faced.

This money was used by the complainant to pay for personal assistants – who provided her with 74 hours of care a week.

However, in February 2016, the council “reassessed” her needs.

It highlighted that she had “high support needs” but that no care was required at nighttime.

As such, it reduced her weekly budget by two-thirds from £841 to £274.11.

In May 2016, the woman complained to the council.

She said her personal budget of £841 a week had enabled her to stay physically well, which enabled her to work, which had a positive impact on her mental health.

The complainant also said that the proposed cut to her personal budget would result in her experiencing regular and severe pain flare-ups and these would result in her taking high levels of several drugs and up to six weeks off work.

In a summary attached to the report, the watchdog said: “The council failed to deal properly with her personal budget. It needs to apologise. It also needs to consider what action to take to prevent similar failings from happening again.”

A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: “We accepted the ombudsman’s findings and offered a full and sincere apology to the client for any distress caused.

“We’ve taken on board the ombudsman’s comments in discussion with all key managers to make sure we apply the lessons learned when dealing with clients in the future.”

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service