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By Andy Duffy ...
By Andy Duffy

Hertfordshire CC is to pay out a record £80,000 after it left a man struggling alone for nearly three years to care for his severely disabled daughter.

The council failed to prepare a care plan for the woman, and took more than two years to rule on a formal complaint made by her desperate father.

The payout, ordered by the local government ombudsman, is the highest made by the county over a social care mistake.

No one has been disciplined over the case, which Hertfordshire said was an isolated instance. But it has implemented sweeping changes to ensure there is no repeat.

The woman, dubbed Louise Norton - not her real name - for legal reasons, has a learning disability, a form of cerebral palsy and is registered blind. She requires 24-hour care and support.

Unhappy at her residential care centre, she decided late in 1996 that she wanted to live at home. Her father notified Hertfordshire in January 1997, but it failed to prepare a care plan. Payments did not start until December 1999.

The £80,000 awarded relates to costs, but also to the distress caused. Local government ombudsman Jerry White said:

'I have also had to take into account factors which go beyond a quantifiable financial loss - the very considerable anxiety and distress that Mr Norton suffered before direct payments began, involving worries about his capacity to earn a living and about Miss Norton's future.'

A Hertfordshire spokeswoman blamed inadequate record keeping and problems with the council's introduction of direct payments in 1996.

The council said in a statement: 'In the five years since these events, we have developed and established robust procedures ensuring that assessments are carried out and care plans put in place within specified timescales, that our work with clients and their carers is carefully recorded, and that these records are kept up to date.'

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