A local authority has been criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) over its treatment of a man with dementia, whose family felt he was being “held prisoner” in a nursing home he had been moved to against his wishes.
The family complained to the LGO that Cambridgeshire County Council social workers had compelled their father to move around 14 miles from the home he shared with his wife, who then had to take two buses each way to visit him, after his needs became more severe in June 2013.
Because the man and his family made repeated requests for him to return home, the council’s deprivation of liberty safeguarding team should have been contacted but were not. The council also failed to advise the family how to appeal the decision through the Court of Protection.
The LGO found that the council had decided the man had no capacity to make his own decisions during meetings to assess his care needs but did not complete proper capacity assessments when he was moved to the home.
Under the Mental Capacity Act, if a person lacks the ability to decide where to live, the decision to move them can only be taken lawfully if a proper mental capacity assessment has been carried out and a best interests decision made.
Whilst social workers completed a mental capacity and best interest decision record in July 2013, it was incomplete and lacked a detailed explanation of the reasoning for the decision.
The LGO also found that the council failed to properly consider whether the man’s placement in the nursing home amounted to a deprivation of liberty, allowed under the Act only in very specific circumstances, such as when someone has to go into a care home or hospital for treatment but cannot decide for themselves.
Local Government Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said: “This family were left believing that their father was being ‘held prisoner’ against his and their wishes, told they could not remove him from the home, and were not made aware of how they could challenge the situation.”
The LGO has asked the council to apologise to the family, pay them £750 in recognition of the distress and trouble involved in making the complaint and to provide additional training to social care staff on issues involved in the case.
Palmers’ partner Lee McClellan said: “A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for health and welfare provides valuable protection against circumstances like those in this case, by allowing you to appoint a trusted person, known as an attorney, to make decisions about your welfare should you lose capacity in the future”
“This might include where you should live, whether or not you should receive certain medical treatment, what sort of diet you should have and whether you should be resuscitated”
“The LPA places the decision-making powers in the hands of your attorney, rather than in the hands of social services, medical practitioners or care home managers. Without an LPA, official agencies can override the wishes of family members and even a partner or spouse.”
“Our experts at Palmers Solicitors have extensive knowledge and experience of helping clients to plan for their future both in relation to their finances and their health and welfare and ensuring that they have appropriate measures in place to protect their family, whether by way of creating Lasting Powers of Attorney or via other methods. For more information, please contact our Older Client team.”