Council Cannot Avoid Responsibility for Care Costs

Stuart Maher TEP – advises on local authority care fee assessments

Watson Ramsbottom have a particular expertise in challenging care fee assessment decisions made by local authorities in respect of the contributions that need to be made by our clients and obtaining repayment of inappropriate assessments. In this article, WR Director Stuart Maher TEP reviews a recent case in relation to responsibility for care provision which went to the Court of Appeal.

When a person is released from hospital but is still in need of nursing care, the liability for the provision of care falls on the NHS. Where the care needs are social, not medical, the liability for care costs will be dealt with under the rules operated by the person’s local authority. The contributions expected from those receiving care differ from one authority to another.

A recent case dealt with the situation in which a person had been detained in hospital after being sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 following an accident which left him with a personality disorder.

The accident led to an award of damages in his favour of more than £3 million. The insurer had argued that because the NHS was bound to pay for the man’s future care, no award of damages should be made because he would not have to pay the costs himself. However, the court concluded that the responsible authorities would not fund the proposed care regime fully and the man was entitled to compensation to cover the cost of his care.

When he left the nursing home where his care was paid for by the authorities, his care costs were paid for out of the damages he received. He then spent several years in a rehabilitation unit before moving into a house he had bought.

However, due to the alleged mismanagement of the court-appointed deputy who had previously managed his finances, the current deputy was of the view that he was no longer able to fund his care arrangements himself and sought to compel his local authority to pay for them. The local authority declined to do so, arguing that the man did still have sufficient means to fund adequate care. He went to court, alleging that the local authority had the responsibility to pay for his care from the outset.

The local authority argued that where an award has been made specifically to fund future care, there would be a ‘double recovery’ if councils were obliged to meet those costs, and they have no responsibility to provide care in such cases unless the damages received are exhausted. This contrasts with the position in which the person who is injured already has enough assets to cover the care costs: in that case, the council would be liable. In this case, the crucial point was that the assets necessary to provide the care stemmed directly from an award for that very purpose.

The Court of Appeal dismissed this argument, however, holding that the council’s obligations under the law were unaffected by the man’s means.

Stuart Maher, a Director and head of our care fee advice and planning team at Watson Ramsbottom commented: ‘This is just another example of local authorities trying to do everything they can to avoid their legal responsibilities to assist in the funding of care for those in need. We deal with cases on a daily basis where local authorities have failed to inform families of their entitlement to assistance with funding their care, in multiple different circumstances.

‘If you feel that you or a loved one may be a similar victim, please contact us on 01254 884422 or complete our online enquiry form discuss your concerns with one of our team of expert advisors’.


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