The council has apologised and paid out more than £6,000 after a series of failures in assessing the needs of an elderly woman in a care home.

Ms M died without receiving guidance after Reading Borough Council (RBC) and Bristol City Council (BCC) disputed which authority should handle her request.

Her son in law, Mr C, complained about the council’s response to a request by his mother in law for financial assistance with her care home placement.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found fault with how RBC responded to this request.

The council told the inspector it is sorry for the delays it caused by not dealing with the case in an appropriate and efficient manner, which it accepts would have caused Ms M and her family distress.

RBC has agreed to apologise, has provided a financial remedy, and will share the lessons learned with relevant staff members.

Ms M’s daughter moved her from Bristol to a care home in Reading after she became unable to look after herself following a fall in March 2017.

The woman, in her 90s, had savings of around £16,000 and the weekly fee of the care home was around £825 a week.

She put her house for sale to pay for her care home fees but was worried her savings would run out before she could sell the house.

Her son in law, Mr C, contacted the council on June 27, 2017, to carry out a needs assessment and apply for twelve weeks property disregard.

When a council agrees to meet a person’s needs through residential care, the council must disregard the value of the person’s property from the financial assessment for the first 12 weeks.

This gives the person time to sell their house before having to pay the full cost of the care home fees.

But the council’s Eligibility, Risk and Review Group (ERRG) said Ms M’s ordinary residence was in Bristol and she should ask for assistance there.

Both councils disputed Ms M’s ordinary residence, while the family sold her property in October 2017.

Ms M passed away in December 2017.

Her son in law said there was an unreasonable delay by RBC in progressing Ms M’s request for financial assistance and deciding how her needs should be met.

The council also failed to inform him of any progress, which was very frustrating and distressing.

RBC has accepted these failures and its responsibility as ‘lead authority’ to refer the dispute to the Secretary of State for determination.

Guidance states: ‘If two councils are unable to resolve a dispute about where a person’s ordinary residence is, the ‘lead authority’, in this case RBC, must apply for a determination to the Secretary of State or appointed person.

RBC took responsibility for Ms M’s case on 15 December 2017.

The council submitted a request for a twelve weeks property disregard but failed to do this in a timely manner, according to the inspector.

The council told the son in law on March 5, 2018, that she was not eligible for a twelve weeks property disregard as her needs could be met within extra care accommodation.

This type of housing is usually self-contained adapted flats, with on-site 24-hour care.

Mr C said the council failed to properly explain how and why it came to its view that his mother in law’s needs could have been met in extra care accommodation.

He also questioned why the council had not mentioned this when her case had first been considered by the ERRG in August 2017.

RBC apologised that its focus had only been on Ms M’s ordinary residence rather and acknowledged it should have provided advice about how her needs could be best met from the beginning.

Her son in law made a complaint to the council on 22 March 2018.

Despite being promised a response within ten days, and chasing the council, a response was only received two months later.

The letter apologised to Mr C for the delay in responding to him and upheld his complaint.

RBC told the son in law that its investigation identified several areas that were not dealt with effectively.

It apologised for this and agreed to pay £6,011,60 to Mr and Mrs C in respect of the 12-week property disregard.

RBC also arranged training for staff on managing ordinary residence situations, and the importance of keeping service users and families informed of progress.

The council has accepted the ombudsman’s recommendations that the council apologise for the failings and distress caused and remind staff within adult social care of the importance of providing sufficiently detailed explanations of decisions.