Salford City Council (18 012 311)

Category : Adult care services > Assessment and care plan

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 29 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Ms X complained about her dealings with the Council over its assessment of her social care needs as well as the requirements for the installation of a stair lift in her home. The Ombudsman cannot investigate her complaint because it must first be put through the Council’s complaints procedure.

The complaint

  1. Ms X complains about her dealings with the Council over its assessment of her social care needs as well as the requirements for the installation of a stair lift in her home.
  2. Ms X is dissatisfied with:
    • the stair lift offer made by the Council
    • a lack of access to food shopping
    • a lack of support to access the outside world and social interaction
    • a lack of support for her autism
    • the restricted use of an advocate
    • a lack of safeguarding measures in relation to her medical issues.
  3. These are broad grounds of complaint and Ms X says there are other matters which she would like to raise.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)
  2. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, or
  • it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  1. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint unless we are satisfied the council knows about the complaint and has had an opportunity to investigate and reply. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to notify the council of the complaint and give it an opportunity to investigate and reply (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(5))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed the complaint and the Ombudsman’s decision on a previous complaint Ms X made which was closed in April 2018. I discussed matters with Ms X and with the Council’s adult social care team. I sent a draft decision statement to Ms X and the Council and considered Ms X’s oral comments and the Council’s written comments in reply.

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What I found

  1. Ms X previously complained to the Ombudsman about the following matters:
    • The Council failed to meet the needs identified in her care and support plan, leaving her at risk of harm.
    • The Council failed to respond appropriately to a safeguarding concern raised by her advocate leaving her at risk.
    • The Council failed to provide a stair lift to meet her identified needs.
    • The Council failed to provide suitable advocacy support and failed to take account of her autism in the way it dealt with her.
  2. The Ombudsman did not find fault in the way the Council assessed Ms X’s needs; responded to the safeguarding concern; and assessed her need for adaptations. The Ombudsman found the Council did not properly consider whether Ms X required advocacy support to assist with her request for adaptations as well as the care planning process.
  3. Ms X contacted this service in November 2018 after meetings she had with the Council regarding care planning and the proposed adaptation in her home. She expressed dissatisfaction with the previous decision and said the matters were ongoing. This service initiated a review of the decision but also contacted the Council because Ms X said the matters were ongoing.
  4. The Council considered Ms X was complaining about the same matters which were subject to the previous complaint to the Ombudsman. So, it said it would not investigate the same complaint again.
  5. The Ombudsman decided not to review the decision on the previous complaint as Ms X’s request for a review was late. But as a new complaint had been registered it fell to me to enquire into Ms X’s circumstances to determine if there are new matters for investigation.
  6. On one hand, most of the issues raised by Ms X are the same as those raised in the previous investigation. For instance, Ms X’s previous complaint referred to a safeguarding risk raised by her advocate because Ms X could not get food. This was addressed in the previous investigation by the Ombudsman. But, on the other hand, if Ms X cannot get food because something has changed whether through action or omission by the Council then it is arguable that a complaint can be made about the lack of food as a new matter. But an assessment of new matters depends largely on the question whether something has changed. On the assessment of Ms X’s needs the Council says its November 2018 stands because there is no evidence of a change in need or circumstances since the assessment.
  7. On the food matter, the Council indicated a willingness to provide food parcels to Ms X if necessary. I am aware of a food parcel was delivered to Ms X as we discussed her complaint on the telephone.
  8. As there were meetings between Ms X and the Council after the Ombudsman decided the previous complaint in April 2018, the Council can now accept a new complaint from Ms X if she is dissatisfied with the outcome of her dealings with the Council on the care planning process and the proposed adaptation in her home (the matter of the stair lift).
  9. Ms X had previously complained about a lack of advocacy support. This complaint was upheld by this service with a recommendation made to the Council that it arrange an advocate for her. Ms X now wants to complain that the Council made a limited arrangement for an advocate just for the purposes of the meetings but did not arrange an advocate who could communicate with it on her behalf on her ongoing needs.
  10. The Council, on the other hand, says the advocacy service it commissioned remain involved with Ms X. The correct position can be adjudged when this ground of complaint is put through the complaints process.
  11. Ms X’s present complaint is premature because it has not been through the Council’s complaints procedure before it was registered with this service. I note Ms X still has a right of appeal/review of the outcome of her care needs assessment and any appeal/review would have to be dealt with before the Council can even consider a complaint about the outcome.
  12. So, the necessary starting point is the appeal/review. The Council should arrange an advocate to assist Ms X with the appeal/review. The advocate should also be made available to assist Ms X with a future complaint.

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Final decision

  1. I discontinued investigation of this complaint because it is premature.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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