Blackpool Borough Council (18 013 485)

Category : Adult care services > Safeguarding

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 23 Apr 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B complains the Council did not respond correctly to safeguarding concerns raised about his father, Mr C and his father’s wife, Mrs C. Mr B complains the Council’s inaction left them at risk of harm. The Ombudsman finds fault with the Council. The Council has agreed to review its procedure for adding concerns onto its case management system and to pay Mr C £100 for the unnecessary risk of harm he was exposed to.

The complaint

  1. Mr B complains the Council did not respond correctly to safeguarding concerns raised about his father, Mr C and his father’s wife, Mrs C. Mr B complains the Council:
    • gave an inadequate and ineffectual response to his report of financial and psychological abuse;
    • failed to respond to reporting and enquiries in a timely manner;
    • did not give him information about procedures and timescales;
    • took an unreasonable time to finish safeguarding inquiries; and
    • failed to recognise the risk of inadequate medication administration.

What I have investigated

  1. I have investigated the Council’s safeguarding response to concerns Mr B raised about his father, Mr C.
  2. I have not investigated the Council’s actions relating to concerns raised about Mrs C. The final section of this statement contains my reason for not investigating this part of the complaint.

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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 must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. We may investigate complaints made on behalf of someone else if they have given their consent. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26A(1), as amended)
  3. 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 considered:
    • Mr B’s complaint and the information he provided;
    • documents supplied by the Council;
    • relevant legislation and guidelines;
    • the Council’s policies and procedures; and
    • the Council and Mr B’s comments on a draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Council’s safeguarding duties apply to adults who:
    • have needs for care and support;
    • are experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect; and
    • because of those care and support needs cannot protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of abuse or neglect
  2. A Council must make enquiries, or cause others to do so, if it believes an adult defined by paragraph 9 is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect.
  3. An enquiry should find out whether any action needs to be taken to prevent or stop abuse or neglect and if so, by who.

Care and support statutory guidance

  1. If someone has concerns about the actions of an attorney acting under a registered enduring power of attorney (EPA) or lasting power of attorney (LPA), or a deputy appointed by the Court of Protection, they should contact the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).

Blackpool Council Safeguarding Procedures: Adult Social Care

  1. Responses to safeguarding concerns should:
    • involve a conversation with the adult or their representative to obtain their views and outcomes;
    • establish their ability capacity and consent to proceed;
    • gather information;
    • consider capacity, representation and advocacy issues;
    • assess immediate risk to the adult or others. If necessary, contact emergency services; and
    • consider and refer to the Safeguarding Threshold Matrix.
  2. The Council’s safeguarding procedures are available on the Blackpool Safeguarding website. The Council’s main website has a link to the Blackpool Safeguarding Adults Board multi-agency safeguarding policy and procedures but these are out of date. The multi-agency policy and procedures should have been reviewed yearly from January 2015; this has not happened.

What Happened

  1. Mr C and Mrs C live together. Mr C has a son, Mr B. Mrs C has a daughter, Mrs D. Mrs D is Mrs C’s carer and her appointee for the Department of Work and Pensions.
  2. This chronology includes key events in this case and does not cover everything that happened.
  3. In April 2018, Mr B raised concerns about the financial and psychological abuse of his father, Mr C, and his wife, Mrs C, with the Council. Mr B said Mrs D had taken money from his father, Mr C. Mr B told the Council Mr C was paying all the household bills and contributing towards Mrs C’s care costs. Mr B explained Mr C became agitated and distressed when Mrs C was taken out by Mrs D and this was emotional abuse.
  4. It took the Council 19 days to add the information provided by Mr B onto its care management system. During this time, Mr B contacted the Council a further two times to raise concerns.
  5. Once the Council had assigned the case to a social worker, the worker made initial enquiries. The social worker spoke to Mr B and Mrs D about the concerns.
  6. In May 2018, the Council visited Mr C and arranged overnight support for when his wife was away visiting family.
  7. Mr B raised his concerns again with the Council. The social worker raised a formal safeguarding concern about the concerns raised by Mr B.
  8. In June 2018, Mr B emailed the Council with his concerns. The Council told Mr B it was going to raise safeguarding concerns about Mr C. Mr B asked the Council to explain its safeguarding policy and procedures. The Council gave Mr B some information about the procedure and referred him to the Blackpool Safeguarding Adults Board multi-agency safeguarding policy and procedures. As mentioned in paragraph 14, these were out-of-date.
  9. In July 2018, the Council assessed Mr C as not having the capacity to manage his finances. Mr B told the Council he wanted Mrs D to repay the money she had taken from Mr and Mrs C.
  10. The Council met with Mrs D. The Council told Mrs D not to discuss financial matters with Mr C. Mrs D agreed to repay money taken from Mr C. The Council also told Mrs D if she takes Mrs C out and Mr C becomes agitated, she should tell the Council so it can put support in place for Mr C. The Council could not update Mr B at the time because the social worker had to take leave unexpectedly.
  11. Mr B’s daughter told the Council Mrs D had left Mrs C to self-administer medication. Mr and Mrs C’s care plans say medication should be kept in a locked cabinet and administered by carers.
  12. In August 2018, the safeguarding enquiry was closed. The enquiry found Mrs D had ‘accepted a cheque for £250 from Mr C, in the knowledge that his capacity was questionable and he had a LPA [legal power of attorney].’. The enquiry also found Mr C was at risk of psychological harm. The Council noted that to lessen the risk of financial abuse, Mr B had closed Mr and Mrs C’s joint account. The Council advised Mrs D again not to discuss financial matters with Mr C and to contact the Council if Mr C became agitated when she took Mrs C out.
  13. The Council send Mr B a letter telling him the result of the safeguarding enquiry. The Council also sent Mr B a copy of Mr C’s care plan review.
  14. Mr B’s wife asked the Council for an update about Mrs D leaving Mrs C to self-administer mediation. The Council told Mr B the risk about medication had been assessed and resolved.
  15. Mr B contacted the Council because Mrs D had taken Mrs C out without telling anyone; Mr C had been left alone. Mr C can become distressed and agitated when left alone. He has previously left his home in a confused state to look for his wife.
  16. In September 2018 Mr B complained to the Council. Mr B said the Council had not followed policies or procedures and had not met timescales. Mr B raised concerns about Mr and Mrs C being at risk of financial and psychological abuse.
  17. Mr C was assigned a new social worker. The social worker was not aware of the concerns raised about psychological abuse. When this was raised by Mr B, the Council said it could not enforce or monitor Mrs D telling the Council when she was taking Mrs C out. The Council asked Mrs D to let the Council know when she was taking Mrs C out but she refused to do so. The Council told Mr B because Mrs D taking Mrs C out was unpredictable, it could not manage the situation. The Council said all it could do was make sure Mr C could summons help in an emergency. The Council arranged for sensors to be installed in Mr and Mrs C’s home to advise if Mr C left the property.
  18. The Council responded in October 2018. The Council said it did not have consent to share information with Mr B about Mrs C. The Council assured Mr B the potential for Mr C to be financially abused was lessened because Mr B had legal power of attorney. The Council told Mr B the concern raised about medication had been addressed. The Council said it would continue to monitor the situation.
  19. In February 2019, Mr B contacted the Council. Mr B said Mrs D had talked to Mr C about money and was refusing to pay back the money owed.
  20. The Council carried out a review of Mr C’s care. The Council decided to refer Mr C to mental health services because of increased agitation. The Council told Mrs D to tell it when she was taking Mrs C out so support could be put in place for Mr C.
  21. In March 2019, the Council wrote to Mr C. The Council apologised for delays in adding Mr B’s concerns onto its case management system and the time it took to start formal safeguarding concerns. The Council told Mr B, Mrs D’s appointeeship had been assessed by the Department of Work and Pensions and she was found to be working in Mrs C’s best interest. The Council advised Mr B it could not share more information with him because Mrs C had not consented to this.

Analysis

  1. The Council followed its safeguarding procedures in response to Mr C’s safeguarding concerns. The Council spoke to both Mr and Mrs C and their representatives. The Council assessed Mr C’s capacity to make financial decisions and considered the appropriateness of Mrs D being Mrs C’s appointee.
  2. Where safeguarding concerns were identified, the Council worked with Mr B and Mrs D to mitigate these. Mr B stopped Mrs D from being able to access Mr C’s money, but she is yet to pay back the money owed. The Council closed the safeguarding enquiry and will continue to monitor the situation.
  3. The Council’s safeguarding procedures are available on the Blackpool Safeguarding website but not the Council’s main website. The Council’s main website has a link to the Blackpool Safeguarding Adults Board multi-agency safeguarding policy and procedures but these are out-of-date. It would have been helpful for the Council to have explained its procedure to Mr B in more detail and to have given him a copy. Not do so was fault.
  4. The Council accepts there was a delay in putting the information about Mr C’s concerns regarding the financial and psychological abuse of his father onto its care management system. The delay was short but any delay in processing Mr B’s concerns left Mr C at risk of abuse for longer than necessary. The Council recognised it was at fault and apologised.
  5. The Council also accepts it took too long to raise a formal safeguarding concern. Although there was a delay, the Council were working with the family to mitigate safeguarding risks before the formal safeguarding concern was raised and I do not consider the delay to have caused injustice. The Council was at fault and apologised to Mr B for the delay.
  6. The Council’s fault led to delay in actioning safeguarding enquiries which left Mr C at risk of harm and caused avoidable frustration for Mr B. Mr B’s frustration was increased by the lack of information given by the Council about its safeguarding policy and procedures.

Agreed action

  1. Within 1 month of the final decision, the Council has agreed to:
    • Review its procedure to ensure safeguarding information is uploaded onto its care management system within 24 hours.
    • Add its safeguarding procedures to the main Council website and add a link to the Blackpool Safeguarding website.
    • Advise the Blackpool Safeguarding Adults Board its multi-agency safeguarding policy and procedures are out of date.
    • Pay Mr C £100 for the unnecessary risk of harm he was exposed to.
  2. In making these recommendations I have considered the Ombudsman’s guide on remedies.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation and uphold Mr B’s complaint. Mr C and Mr B have been caused an injustice by the actions of the Council and it has agreed to remedy that injustice.

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Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate

  1. I have not investigated the Council’s actions in relation to concerns raised about Mrs C. I do not have Mrs C or her representatives consent to investigate. Mr B can contact the Court of Protection if he is concerned about financial or welfare decisions made on Mrs C’s behalf.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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