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Swindon Borough Council (18 011 271)

Category : Adult care services > Other

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 27 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Ms Y complained on behalf of Ms X, that the Council’s response to her complaint, failed to address concerns about how it supported her. The Council also failed to respond to Ms X’s request for a review of the response. The Council is at fault. It has agreed to complete a further review of the complaint.

The complaint

  1. Ms Y complained on behalf of Ms X, that the Council’s complaint response failed to address the concerns raised, about how it supported Ms X. They state the Council:
      1. delayed in responding to the complaint;
      2. did not use communication and intervention methods supportive of Ms X’s learning disability;
      3. did not include Ms X’s wishes in her support plan;
      4. failed to reflect and learn from Ms X’s complaint; and
      5. did not respond to the request for a review of the complaint.
  2. Ms Y says Ms X has experienced poor practice from the staff working with her and it has been time consuming and frustrating bringing these concerns to the attention of the Council.

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What I investigated

  1. I investigated complaints a) and e) in paragraph one. The reasons for not investigating b), c) and d) are explain at the end of this decision.

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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. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I discussed the complaint with Ms Y and the Council.
  2. I considered the Council’s complaint response to Ms Y.
  3. I referred to the Council’s complaints policy for adult social care.
  4. Ms X and the Council had the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Ms X received twelve hours weekly support from the Council to help with meal planning and finances.
  2. In February 2018, Ms Y complained to the Council on Ms X’s behalf about the support she was receiving. She said:
    • staff had given Ms X conflicting information about what she was expected to do;
    • reasonable adjustments were not being made for her learning disability; and
    • a staff member had been verbally abusive to Ms X.
  3. Ms Y states she contacted the Council for a response to the complaint in March, where she was told adult social care (ASC) were investigating. She was not given a timescale for the investigation. She contacted the Council again in April and June 2018.
  4. The Council responded to the complaint on 15 June 2018. It apologised for the delay but said this was because of the seriousness of the concerns raised. The Council did not uphold the complaint. It advised Ms Y to contact the Ombudsman if she was unhappy with the outcome.
  5. On 10 July 2018, Ms Y sent a letter to the Council asking it to complete a stage two investigation as she did not feel its response had addressed the complaint properly. The Council acknowledged the request on 30 July 2018. Ms Y contacted the Council twice more in August but it failed to respond. In October 2018, Ms Y contacted the Ombudsman.
  6. During my enquiries, the Council offered to meet with Ms Y to review the outstanding areas of concern that were not satisfactorily addressed in the Council’s complaint response. The Council has agreed to do this immediately so there is no further delay to Ms X.

What should have happened

  1. Complaints about adult social care were legislated for in 2009. Councils must complete a single stage investigation. If, the complaint cannot be resolved through this, the complainant can take their complaint to the Ombudsman. The Council’s adult social care complaints policy states it will respond to complaints within twenty-five days. If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, it will speak to the complaints team.

My findings

  1. The Council completed a single stage investigation into Ms X’s complaint, which by law, was all it was required to do. It signposted Ms X to the Ombudsman if she was unhappy with the response. The Council took eighteen weeks to respond to the complaint; this is thirteen weeks longer than it should. Although it has said it was a complex investigation, it did not keep Ms X or Ms Y informed of the timescales. This is fault.
  2. In July 2018, Ms Y contacted the Council asking for a stage two investigation. Although the Council acknowledged this, it did not take any further action. Therefore, the Council did not keep to its own policy of speaking to the complaints team if a complainant was unhappy with the response to the complaint. This is fault. This has caused Ms X an injustice as she feels her complaint has not been resolved. The Council has agreed to review the complaint to address the outstanding concerns. This addresses the injustice caused.

Agreed action

  1. Within two months of my final decision the Council has agreed to:
    • provide the Ombudsman with the outcome of its review of Ms X’s complaint; and
    • apologise to Ms X for the delays in dealing with her complaint to date.

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Final decision

  1. The Council is at fault for not following its complaint procedure. It has agreed to review the complaint and address any outstanding concerns. This remedy’s the injustice caused. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.

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Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate

  1. I did not investigate points b), c) or d) as these will be addressed through the Council’s investigation. If Ms X remains unhappy following this, she can return to the Ombudsman.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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