Essex County Council was found to be in fault by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for its handling of two separate women’s Disability Related Expenses (DREs).
Both ladies have Court Appointed Deputies who make financial choices on their behalf, as their impairments prevent them from doing so independently.
The rates charged by the Deputies exceed what the council stated its own Deputy could execute the work for. As a result, the council determined that it was unreasonable to regard the increased sum as a DRE.
As specified in the Care Act, councils should consider the costs that individual incurs directly connected to their impairment when determining how much they should contribute to their care.
Because both Deputy Services were appointed by the court, the Ombudsman determined that the ladies did not desire a more expensive service.
Additionally, because the council could only replace the Deputy acting on behalf of the women by a court order, the council’s assistance was not fairly accessible to the women.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “The council appears to be fettering its discretion when considering these women’s cases.
“The Guidance says the council may decide not to allow DRE where a cheaper alternative is available.
“However, in these cases, the council appears to have decided that, as there is a cheaper option, it automatically means it will not allow the full fees, rather than considering the specific circumstances.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s duty is to address unfairness and communicate findings from investigations in order to assist in the improvement of public and adult social care services.
In this matter, the council decided to review whether the Function’s costs are acceptable in light of the service it performs as a private deputy to the two ladies.
Additionally, if the council determines that the women should apply for a council deputy position, the cost of this procedure must be factored into the budgetary evaluation.
Additionally, the council has agreed to explore the policy reasons why a local government would not be a suitable substitute for the Court-appointed Service.