Sheffield Council to apologise and pay disabled man for causing “uncertainty and inconvenience”

The ombudsman has upheld a man’s complaint against Sheffield Council after it didn’t consider properly his disability-related expenses which led to his mental health deteriorating.
Sheffield Town HallSheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall

Sheffield Council agreed to apologise and pay a disabled man who was “not getting the support needed” as it was at fault when deciding how much money he had to contribute towards the cost of his care.

In January 2022, a man only referred in a report to Mr X – who has autism, dyspraxia and severe dyslexia – had requested a social care assessment.

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A care assessment in April and subsequent financial checks set out the maximum weekly amount (£134.51 and £134.52, respectively) he could contribute, an ombudsman report said.

Mr X’s mother, referred to as Ms C, contacted the council and called them to consider disability-related expenditure (DRE) items. She was told that the man’s “care costs were less than this maximum weekly contribution which meant he would need to pay the full cost of his care”.

An amended financial assessment had explained, the report added, that based on Mr X’s current support plan he would still need to pay £91.69 weekly which was the full cost of his care.

This was appealed and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s report said an amended care and support plan in October set out an increased amount of 12 hours of PA support each week via a direct payment.

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The plan noted Mr X privately funded cleaning and several items of disability-related expenditure (DRE) and wanted these to be considered when calculating his contribution towards his care costs.

In November, Mr X was told he would be allowed DREs for bedding, laundry, clothing and water usage each week.

The report said: “It was also decided to allow a DRE towards the purchase of headphones and a keyboard once evidence of the purchases was provided. It was also agreed to consider a DRE towards energy once evidence of 12-month predicted usage was provided.”

However, Mr X appealed the decision in February 2023 and set out why he was unable to provide a receipt of purchase of his headphones and why he needed a specific TV, game and music subscription.

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The case was then reviewed and it resulted in an agreement into a DRE for the game application in addition to the previously agreed DREs and provided the reasons why the remaining DRE requests had been rejected.

The ombudsman said it had found no “evidence of fault in the way the council considered the requests for DREs”.

It said: “The council followed the appropriate procedures when making its decisions and I cannot therefore criticise the decisions themselves.”

The ombudsman added: “However, I have found some of the council’s communication to be poorly drafted and I consider this fault will have caused Ms C and Mr X a degree of uncertainty and inconvenience.”

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The ombudsman said there was an “avoidable delay” in the process and Ms C said the expenses not being properly considered meant her son did not get the support he needed and his mental health deteriorated.

Sheffield Council had agreed to “provide a written apology to both Ms C and Mr X for the avoidable uncertainty and inconvenience caused by the poor communication and avoidable delay” and make a symbolic payment of £200 to Mr X within one month of this ruling.

The ombudsman concluded: “I have completed my investigation as I have found fault by the council but consider the agreed action above provides a suitable remedy.”

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