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Mum left with no food in fridge and only spaghetti hoops in cupboard wins battle with London council

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An East London council failed to properly help a disabled woman when it suspected her son was trying to get control of her money, a local government ombudsman probe has found. Newham Council also failed to start a safeguarding investigation at the appropriate time.

The woman’s daughter said her mum had been “forced to use food banks”. The council said in an email in 2020 that it had noticed she often did not have any food in her fridge and only noodles and spaghetti hoops in the cupboard. The council has been told to pay the woman, named Ms X in the report, and her daughter, referred to as Ms Z, £750 each.

The report says: “The evidence seen as part of this investigation, indicates that there were concerns going back to 2016 about Ms X’s son and him trying to gain control of her money. I have not seen any evidence of any safeguarding enquiry prior to December 2018 despite many references to possible financial abuse by family members.”

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It adds: “I am not persuaded the council did enough to ensure Ms X’s needs were being met once her son had control of her money. While I have not seen anything to show it was aware Ms Z and Ms X were having to use foodbanks, there is enough other evidence to show Ms X had no access to her pension income.

“The council refused to release Ms X’s money to her even though it should not actually have held this money. I consider the failure to ensure Ms X had access to money to meet her essential needs was fault.”

The council became Ms X’s appointee for benefits and pensions in 2017, meaning payments from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were made into an account held by the council who put money on a payment card each week for Ms X. In August 2019, the council found out Ms X’s son had been appointed attorney. The DWP started paying him instead in January 2020.

The ombudsman said the council believed the power of attorney had been gained “fraudulently”. The authority was holding more than £10,000 of Ms X’s money by November 2019 but did not pass the money to Ms X’s son. The council said it was safeguarding the money but did not progress the safeguarding investigation at the time either.

The report says: “While it was fault for the council to continue to manage Ms X’s money once it knew about the LPA, I am not persuaded this caused Ms X a significant injustice as it meant the money was later returned to her. The council could have used its statutory safeguarding powers in this situation but did not do anything for a further two months. While it can be argued the council was acting in Ms X’s interests, it is important it follows the correct procedures and there is a lack of evidence to show it did this in this case.”

Ms Z and the Office of the Public Guardian asked the council to help Ms X financially in early 2020 but it did not release any of Ms X’s money. The report says: “The council did not pay any money even though it was aware Ms X’s son had control of her finances and was not providing for Ms X.” The power of attorney was revoked in June 2020 and Ms X now lives with Ms Z in another area.

The council has been ordered to pay out £1,500 in total and apologise to Ms Z and Ms X. Newham Council has been contacted for comment.

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/east-london-news/mum-left-no-food-fridge-24197877