Council at fault for charging decision

Essex County Council has been found at fault for the way it considered two women’s Disability Related Expenses by the local government and social care ombudsman, Disability Rights reports.

Because of the women’s disabilities, both have court-appointed deputies to make decisions about their financial affairs. The fees charged by the deputy are higher than the rate the council said its own deputyship team would charge to perform the task and because of this, Essex County Council claimed it was unreasonable to treat the higher amount as a Disability Related Expense.

The Care Act in England and Wales means councils should consider the expenses someone incurs that are directly related to their disability when working out how much they contribute to that person’s care.

Council service ‘not reasonably available’

The investigation by the ombudsman said the deputy had been appointed by the Court of Protection, and this did not mean the individuals wanted a more expensive service and that no comparison could be made as the application to the Court was not made by the Council.

The local government and social care ombudsman, Michael King said Essex County Council seemed to be “fettering its discretion” when considering the case of the two women. While the guidance allowed for councils to decide not to allow disability-related expenses where there was a cheaper option, it had not considered the specific circumstance.

The Ombudsman recommended the council reconsider whether the fees are reasonable in relation to the services provided to the two women by the appointed Deputy. Should the council decide to apply on behalf of the two women in question to have Essex appointed as deputy, it must factor the costs of the process into its financial assessment.

The Ombudsman also went on to recommend that Essex County Council consider the policy reasons why a local authority may not be the best alternative to court-appointed deputies.

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