West Sussex County Council accused a woman of giving away £140,000 to avoid paying for care fees.
A complaint made by her daughter – known as Mrs C – was upheld by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman and saw the council ordered to carry out a review of the case.
A report from the ombudsman stated that, after the mother suffered a stroke and was unable to live independently, she moved into an annex of Mrs C’s home.
She was initially unable to sell her own shared home so, for the next two years, Mrs C paid for care fees, utilities, maintenance and day-to-day living expenses out of her own pocket.
She also paid for privately employed physiotherapists and acupuncture therapists.
Once the mother’s home was sold, she transferred £140,000 of her share into Mrs C’s account ‘in recognition of the physical, emotional and financial support she had given and continued to give her’.
Problems arose, though, when Mrs C asked the council to conduct a financial assessment as her mother’s finances were close to dropping below the level needed to receive help with social care.
After carrying out the assessment, the council decided the £140,000 was a deliberate deprivation of assets and decided to treat the gift as notional capital – meaning that, while the mother did not actually have the money, she would be treated as if she did.
The ombudsman’s reported said the council should not have assumed the money was given to Mrs C to avoid paying care fees and added: “It is my view the council is at fault in how it considered the issue of deprivation.”
The council was told to allow Mrs C a chance to respond to questions about expenses, and to review the case.
Paul McKay, the county council’s director of adults’ services, said: “The specific deprivation of assets issue was considered by a manager in line with the council’s charging policy and its deprivation of assets practice guidance that were in place at that time.
“However, since then the council has introduced a formal deprivation of assets panel and the process for considering cases has been revised.
“As requested by the ombudsman, this case has been reviewed and further evidence has been considered by the panel.”