The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) criticised this week West Sussex County Council (WSCC) over its assessment of a woman on her contributions to care costs.
In its report the LGO found WSCC failed to follow government guidance and took 18 months to decide the woman’s property she owned jointly with her daughter had little value.
Initially the Council decided the woman had an equal share of the home which therefore should be sold towards the cost of her residential care.
The LGO recommends West Sussex reviews any other cases it has assessed in the same manner and reports back to the Ombudsman. WSCC should also make a full apology to the complainants (the woman’s daughter and partner), contribute towards legal cost incurred and make a payment for the anxiety caused while the property was under threat.
Local Government Ombudsman said: “The actions of the council, in particular its hesitancy in making decisions, caused significant distress to the complainants which could have otherwise been avoided. It threatened to take legal action, which it later retracted, meaning the complainants had to prepare for a court case which never took place.
“Had the Council discussed it’s decisions and explained it’s processes more clearly, it could have resolved matters much more swiftly and in all likelihood avoided the need for the complainants to seek legal advice.”
The investigation concerned a property, which the woman and her daughter owned but were holding on trust for themselves as joint tenants, and on which they had agreed a personal covenant not to sell or transfer any of their share of it, besides to each other.
This was because the daughter had in effect loaned her mother the majority of the money to pay for her share of the property, in order to ensure that her parents felt a sense of ownership of the home by having their name on the legal title.