Ms C applied for a community care grant for a replacement bed and sofa, carpets for her living room, window blinds, clothing and redecorating costs. The applicant suffered from significant mental and physical health issues, for which she received Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and had a mental health nurse working with her as part of a drugs treatment programme.
The council refused the application on the basis that the application did not meet the qualifying criteria. They assessed that she was not at risk of care or facing exceptional pressure. They also noted that the items applied for had been requested due to “wear and tear” and as such excluded from the fund, and that clothing and redecoration are also excluded. This decision was upheld at the first tier review stage.
Ms C applied to SPSO for an independent review of the council’s decision. We noted that the council had requested additional information from the applicant, but had not made contact with her mental health nurse, despite being referred to contact her in both the application and first tier review requests. When we contacted the applicant’s mental health nurse, we learned that that the applicant suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and addictions issues. She was deemed to be highly vulnerable and was refusing to allow healthcare professionals to visit her home due to the condition of the items. This was material to our assessment that she met the qualifying criteria concerning facing exceptional pressure to maintain a settled home (covered in s8.14-8.15 of the guidance). We instructed the council to award the items which met the necessary priority level. We assessed that the council should have made additional enquiries to arrive at a robust assessment, and also provided feedback regarding the council’s written communication, lack of a decision making template, and their use of the 'high - most compelling' priority rating before the last quarter of the financial year. Lastly, we expressed concern that a rule of thumb relating to 'wear and tear' was being used and this is not supported by the guidance.