A VULNERABLE woman who had a stroke was left without care for more than a year because the council took too long to set up her direct payments.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has told Worcestershire County Council to pay the woman £3,000 compensation for the “unacceptable” distress caused by not having the right care between January 2021, when the woman left hospital, and 2022.

The ombudsman found the council at fault for taking too long to complete the woman’s social care assessment and her care and support plan, and it failed to put in place her direct payments in a timely fashion.

The council had also blamed the Worcestershire woman, who is not named in the report, for not cooperating with staff without providing any evidence.

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Michael King, Local Government and Social Care ombudsman, said: “The council’s failure meant a vulnerable woman with serious health problems was left without funding to meet her essential care needs for more than a year.

“While I appreciate the pressures councils are under, and particularly during the time in question, the delay in this case is unacceptable.

“I am also concerned the council sought to blame the woman for not co-operating with its officers, when there was no evidence to support this.”

The situation came about after the council referred the woman to Penderels, a company acting on behalf of the county council, to help her find a personal assistant.

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Case notes suggested the woman struggled to fill out financial forms because of her disability.

The woman’s social care assessment was finalised in August 2021, setting out the support she needed, but the woman said this was incorrect.

A direct payment agreement was sent to the woman to sign, but she could not do so because of her disability.

She was eventually helped to sign, but the council further delayed setting up the payments.

The direct payments had not been set up by the time the Ombudsman started investigating in January 2022.

Mark Fitton, interim strategic director of people for Worcestershire County Council said, “Direct payments are an important part of how we help our residents to remain as independent as possible. They provide individuals with choice and control over their care and support needs.  

“We can confirm that the council commissioned Penderels to provide a support service for adults receiving a direct payment in Worcestershire.

“As part of a wider review of direct payyments, in October last year, a different organisation was commissioned to take over the financial and support aspect of the service.

“We have apologised to the resident who raised the complaint regarding their direct payment and their support needs not being met.

"Throughout this process, we have offered the resident a number of alternative reablement options that would ensure their care needs are met including the use of care providers, but the resident has made it clear to us that direct payments remain their preferred option, so we are continuing to liaise with them over how to best support them going forward. 

“We have accepted the recommendations given to the county council from the Local Government Ombudsman as part of their report, and they are being worked through, including a wider review of the direct payments service.

"The Local Government report will be presented to cabinet in July.”