The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complains of failures by the Council’s social care department and the Leeds Safeguarding Adults Board. She says these have affected her health and reduced her ability to work. There was no procedural fault by the Council.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, was murdered. He is represented by his mother, Mrs X. She complains the Council:
- Failed to carry out a proper assessment of Mr X’s needs, thereby leaving him at risk; and
- Wrongly refused to carry out a Safeguarding Adults Review after his murder.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the documents Mrs X supplied and made written enquiries of the Council. I considered the response of the Leeds Safeguarding Adults Board on behalf of the Council and the documents it supplied. One of these contained third party information, so I have not been able to share it with Mrs X. I considered the requirements of the Care Act 2014 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 that are relevant for the Ombudsman’s role. I shared a draft of this decision with both parties and invited their comments. I considered those I received.
What I found
- The evidence I have seen shows Mr X experienced poor mental health at times in the years before his tragic murder. It also shows he had difficulties at times with alcohol and drug misuse.
- The Leeds Safeguarding Adults Board discharges duties on behalf of the Council, though it is independent of the Council in its ability to criticise adult social care. Its principal role is to consider cases involving harm to vulnerable adults.
Assessment of Mr X’s needs
- The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is relevant here. Councils must assume a person has capacity to make decisions unless there are grounds to doubt their capacity. The threshold for a person to lack mental capacity is high. It is not sufficient to doubt capacity solely because a person makes bad decisions or has mental health difficulties, or because members of their families would make better decisions for them.
- Assuming a person has capacity, he or she can decline Council services and assessments.
- The evidence provided by the Leeds Safeguarding Adults Board shows Mr X declined assistance in the months before his death. It also showed he was assessed twice by bodies other than the Council. I have seen no evidence that either of these assessments recommended services for the Council to provide that Mr X was willing to accept or suggested that he lacked mental capacity to decide. It is not for the Ombudsman to decide if Mr X lacked capacity, even though it is clear he took decisions against his best interest. And I cannot say the Council should have decided he lacked capacity and thus assessed his needs without his consent. Regardless of whether the assessments by other bodies that informed the Council’s decision-making were inadequate, I cannot say the Council should have acted differently. So, I cannot find it at fault.
- Mrs X remains of the view that Mr X required services and the Council failed to provide them. I considered everything she sent me to support her view, but in the absence of procedural fault, these documents do not allow me to substitute my own view for that of the Council.
Carrying out a Safeguarding Adults Review
- The Care Act 2014 is relevant here. Under s.44, a Safeguarding Adults Review is only triggered when events meet certain criteria. I have seen the Safeguarding Adults Board’s correspondence with Mrs X laying this out. I have also seen a confidential copy of the scoping exercise the Board carried out after Mr X’s murder, which concluded the threshold had not been met.
- As in the other complaint, I cannot make my own decision where a Council has acted properly in reaching its decision. In this case, the Safeguarding Adults Board sought the views of Mrs X, Mr X’s father and sister, his friend and 28 other agencies. These are laid out in full in the record of the scoping exercise, which runs to more than 200 pages. It was for the Board to decide whether the threshold was met and the evidence laid out in the scoping exercise was extensive. It is clear the Board considered the responses it received when deciding not to hold a Safeguarding Adults Review. I cannot therefore find the Council at fault.
- Mrs X remains of the view that the threshold was met. I considered everything she sent me. But I am not able to reach a view on legal definitions and whether the Board interpreted them correctly. That is a matter for a court to decide, not the Ombudsman.
- I do not uphold the complaint as there was no procedural fault by the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman