Court ruling leads to cash-strapped Hartlepool Council facing near £350,000 care bill

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Councillors have hit out at being landed with a bill of almost £350,000 a year after the number of applications to deprive care home residents of their liberty has rocketed.

A court ruling has seen the number of people subjected to Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) go up from just 38 in 2013-14 to 1,006 in 2015-16.

Carl Richardson.

Carl Richardson.

The estimated cost to Hartlepool Borough Council this municipal year is £337,000.

Local councils are responsible for granting the safeguards which are used to protect the interests of adults, cared for in a care home or hospital, who do not have mental capacity.

They can include the use of restraints, sedation and restrict the person’s movement.

A Supreme Court judgement in 2014 altered the criteria for when a DoLS need to be used.

John Lovatt, Hartlepool council’s head of adult services, said: “It has been a massive drain on our resources in 2015-16 and will continue to be going forward.”

Coun Carl Richardson, vice chair of the Adult Services Committee, said: “I think people need to understand through no fault of our own because of the law being changed it is going to cost the local authority over £300,000.

“This is an extra cut on top of the cuts we have already had. It is one of the problems with central government; there is a change in the law and they don’t take that into consideration.”

The council has seen its Government funding reduced year on year for the last six years and faces a further £9.8m of cuts by 2019-20.

A team dedicated to dealing solely with DoLS has been created within the council to handle the increased workload.

Coun Stephen Thomas, chair of the committee said the new legislation and court judgement around DoLS had put the spotlight on safeguarding issues which he said was positive.

But he added: “Hartlepool is facing further significant cuts in Government funding so it does seem grossly unfair that we have to pick up this extra cost because of a change in legislation. As a council we remain committed to protecting vulnerable adults in the town and our special care teams do a fantastic job despite the increasing financial challenges.”

Coun Thomas recommended a letter by regional leaders be sent to the Government about the ongoing financial pressure of DoLS.