An Ombudsman has blasted MK Council for cutting the care hours of a man suffering from Huntingdon's disease, leaving him unable to shop for food or cook meals.
And the ruling could have a knock-on effect for disabled people all over MK who have been wrongly told the council does not pay for someone to do their cooking, cleaning, or shopping.
In a rare move, the council has been ordered to review the care plans of other service users affected by this “faulty” policy - and they may even have to pay them compensation if necessary.
The Ombudsman's report states: “The council cannot have a blanket policy to not fund identified eligible needs if those needs cannot be met in an alternative way... The fault also potentially affects other service users.”
The complaint focused around 54-year-old Medbourne man Roy Nixon, who was diagnosed with Huntingdon's 10 years ago.
The cruel condition affects Roy's ability to move, think and eat. He suffers frequent falls, has cognitive problems and frequently chokes on food.
“It has made is incapable of preparing even a microwave meal for himself. He is totally relient upon others to shop, cook and help him eat,” said his ex-partner, who has spent two years fighting MK Council on Roy's behalf.
Yet in 2016, following a social services assessment, the council slashed Roy's care hours from 35 to 23.5 per week.
They said this was because they “no longer funded” care hours for cooking or domestic chores.
The move had a devastating effect upon Roy, who lost two stone and ended up in hospital to have a feeding tube fitted to his stomach, said his ex-partner.
“Eating is obviously important to any disabled person, but to people with Huntingdon's it is crucial. The disease means they need more calories – around 5,000 a day – simply to maintain their weight,” she said.
She complained repeatedly to social services and to her MP. But she says her complaints were brushed aside, with the council continuing to insist that Roy could pay for people to cook and clean out of his benefit money.
Eventually the ex partner took the case to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and his ruling was given last week.
He found MK Council at fault for issuing an “inadequate” care package that was not sufficient to meet Roy's needs.
He said this action caused “significant injustice” to Roy, his ex-partner and his carer, who worked extra unpaid hours to ensure he ate.
MK Council has agreed to remedy the injustice with a payment of £3,000 compensation to Roy, £1,000 to his ex-partner, and £200 to his carer to compensate for the extra hours she worked.
The Ombudsman ordered that the results of the review to discover whether any other people in MK are suffering similarly should be reported back to him.
His report states: “The Council can carry out such as review as part of the service user’s six monthly review. The Council should reimburse any service users whose eligible needs were not met in an alternative way.”
A council spokesperson said: “We have apologised for this mistake and offered compensation. We are sorry to have got it wrong.
“We do help people with eligible needs to shop, clean, prepare meals and similar tasks. We’ve since introduced a different working model with more scrutiny and ongoing reviews of how our clients are supported to make sure everyone gets the right domestic help.