COUNCIL chiefs have agreed to settle an on-going dispute over care costs and instead campaign for a change in the law.

St Helens Council has been embroiled in a dispute since 2012 over the cost of care for a patient, who is not from St Helens.

The patient, referred to as Mr A, suffered a serious brain injury and received £2.85 million in compensation following a successful personal injury claim.

After receiving home care for several years, it was decided that Mr A required care in a specialist facility and was subsequently moved to a private injury clinic in St Helens in 2012.

However, the council refused to complete a financial assessment for social care services because it concluded Mr A should use his personal injury settlement to fund his care privately.

After rejecting recommendations from the Local Government Ombudsman regarding the case, the council decided to pursue legal action.

Cllr Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care, explained at cabinet this week that the council chose to fight the case to raise awareness of the issue, which the council believe has “national implications”.

She said: “To be clear, we have great sympathy for Mr A and any person with a serious brain injury, but it cannot be fair on St Helens that the costs are met through the way they are.

“We think the law needs to be changed.

“St Helens is home to a private injury clinic. Such facilities are relatively rare, hence people from all over the UK may end up in St Helens cared for at this facility.

“Legal representation on behalf of Mr A argued that the cost of his care at the facility should be met by St Helens Council as that was where he was effectively residing in being at the care facility.

“This was in spite of Mr A having received a very considerable compensation package for his unfortunate injury.”

In 2016 the Local Government Ombudsman investigated the case and ruled that St Helens Council caused an injustice to Mr A.

The Ombudsman published a report concluding the council was at fault as it refused to provide or fund home care services for Mr A, despite an assessment deeming he had eligible needs.

It said the council also delayed in completing a care plan, setting out the services identified in the assessment and the cost of those services, and failed to complete a financial assessment to determine the contribution Mr A should pay towards the cost of his care.

The Ombudsman recommended the council carry out a financial assessment of Mr A, applying its charging policy.

It also recommended that it calculate the funding required to meet Mr A’s eligible needs and pay any money due to Mr A from January 2012.

Despite the ruling, the Ombudsman did acknowledge the authority’s stance.

The Ombudsman said in its report: “We note the council’s position about the potential injustice to others were it to fund Mr A’s care.

“We do not consider this absolves the council from acting in line with the law and statutory guidance set out in this report in relation to Mr A.”

St Helens Council was required by law to consider the report and tell the Ombudsman the action it had taken or proposed to take in response.

This was rejected by council chiefs and in February 2017, cabinet decided not to reconsider its decision to refuse to accept the recommendations.

The Ombudsman took no further action as the complainant commenced judicial review proceedings against the council.

The judicial review proceedings were put on hold pending the outcome of a similar claim against Manchester City Council.

Cllr Quinn said: “Our position is, we did not think it fair that St Helens Council and St Helens Council taxpayers should be meeting this cost in these circumstances.

“Inevitably, meeting this cost reduces our ability to care for other people living in St Helens.

“We believe the cost occurred would in effect be double funded.

“We felt on principle we needed to fight this case if for no other reason to raise the profile of this issue.

“So, we will campaign for a fairer practice that does not cost St Helens taxpayers money.”

The Manchester case was heard in November 2017 and the judgment was not in favour of the council.

“Manchester City Council lost their case in court,” Cllr Quinn said.

“At that point it was felt that St Helens couldn’t pursue our case to success.

“Our efforts instead will be focused on campaigning to change the law.”

Cllr Quinn revealed the council has written to Marie Rimmer, MP for St Helens South and Whiston and Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North to seek their support on the issue.

It has also raised the matter with the Local Government Association.

Cabinet agreed to calculate the funding required to meet Mr A’s eligible needs and pay any money due from January 2012.

Cllr Quinn said the final amount is yet to be determined.

Cabinet noted the new position on the matter and agreed to immediately inform the Ombudsman of the review and the action it proposes to take and why in respect of its previous recommendations.