East Sussex County Council (19 019 234)

Category : Adult care services > Safeguarding

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 02 Feb 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complains about the Council’s management and investigation of safeguarding concerns she raised regarding her mother. We find no fault with the Council’s actions.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complains about the Council’s management and investigation of safeguarding concerns she raised regarding her mother. Mrs X says she raised concerns about two injuries her mother sustained in December 2017 and January 2018. She also raised concerns regarding her mother being given incorrect medication. She complains:
    • The Council did not involve her in the investigation.
    • The Council did not keep her informed during the investigation.
    • The Council’s investigation was inadequate.

Mrs X says the Council’s actions caused her distress.

  1. Mrs X also complained about the Council’s safeguarding investigation into an injury her mother sustained in December 2016.
  2. Mrs X is represented by Ms P.

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What I have investigated

  1. I have investigated Mrs X’s complaints about the Council’s management and investigation of the injuries sustained in December 2017 and January 2018.

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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 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)
  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 spoke with Mrs X and Ms P and considered the information they provided.
  2. I made enquiries with the Council and considered the information it provided.
  3. I sent a draft decision to Mrs X, Ms P, and the Council and considered their comments.

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What I found

Legal and administrative background

  1. Section 42 of the Care Ac 2014, and the Care and Support Statutory guidance, states a local authority’s safeguarding duties apply when an adult:
    • has needs for care and support;
    • is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect; and
    • as a result of those care and support needs, is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of, abuse or neglect.
  2. The aims of adult safeguarding are to:
    • prevent harm and reduce the risk of abuse or neglect to adults with care and support needs;
    • safeguard individuals in a way that supports them in making choices and having control in how they choose to live their lives;
    • promote an outcomes approach in safeguarding that works for people resulting in the best experience possible; and
    • raise public awareness so professionals, other staff and communities as a whole play their part in preventing, identifying & responding to abuse and neglect.
  3. Local authorities must make enquiries, or ensure others do, if it reasonably suspects an adult who has care and support needs is, or is at risk of, being abused or neglected and unable to protect himself against the abuse or neglect or risk of it because of those needs.
  4. An enquiry is the action taken or instigated by the local authority in response to a concern that abuse or neglect may be taking place. An enquiry could range from a conversation with the individual who is the subject of the concern, to a much more formal multi-agency arrangement.
  5. The purpose of an enquiry is to decide whether the local authority, or another organisation or person, should do something to protect the vulnerable adult from any actual, or risk of, abuse or neglect.
  6. If the local authority decides that another organisation should take action, for example a provider, then the local authority should be clear about the timescales and the need to know the outcomes of the enquiry.

What happened

  1. Mrs X’s mother, Mrs A, lived in a care home. In December 2017, Mrs A, received an injury to her arm. In January 2018, Mrs A received an injury to her knee. Mrs X said she did not raise any concerns about these injuries with the Council at the time.
  2. In July 2018, Mrs X received a letter from Mrs A’s care home. The letter noted the care home had suspended three members of staff pending an investigation into allegations of abuse. After receiving this letter, Mrs X contacted the Council to raise safeguarding concerns regarding the injuries her mother had in December 2017 and January 2018.
  3. Mrs X met with the Council and it was agreed the Council would consider her safeguarding concerns alongside the safeguarding enquiries it was already conducting involving other residents of Mrs A’s care home.
  4. In August 2018, Mrs X sent a further letter to the Council outlining some concerns she had about her mother being given incorrect medication. She highlighted that her mother had presented with slurred speech at the January and July 2018. She also said her mother’s demeanour had changed.
  5. The Council responded to Mrs X in August 2018. The Council said it could not investigate or say what happened in January 2018 due to the time that had passed. The Council told Mrs X that all the staff that were working on the night Mrs A received her injury in January 2018, have either been dismissed or resigned. The Council also confirmed the member of staff which Mrs X had identified as a cause of concern no longer worked at the care home. The Council said this meant there was no ongoing risk to Mrs A and so no further action was needed. The Council’s letter did not address Mrs X’s concerns about Mrs A’s medication.
  6. In September 2018, Mrs X repeated her concerns about her mother’s slurred speech. Mrs X told the Council her mother also had slurred speech in August 2018. Mrs X also told the Council her mother’s demeanour had since improved and that she did not have any slurred speech in September 2018. Mrs X asked the Council to investigate her concerns.
  7. The Council responded to Mrs X in mid-September 2018. The Council said it did not consider the concerns raised by Mrs X about her mother’s medication to be a safeguarding concern. The Council said there was no abuse apparent and it was an issue that Mrs X was concerned that Mrs A’s prescribed medication was wrong.
  8. In response to my enquiries, the Council further explained its reasons for not taking further action with regards to Mrs X’s concerns about medication. The Council said Mrs X’s concerns did not meet the test under the Care Act 2014 as Mrs X was not experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect.
  9. The Council said Mrs X had contacted a pharmacist and Mrs A’s doctor about her concerns. The Council said neither the pharmacist nor Mrs A’s doctor had raised any concerns. Mrs X said she did not contact a pharmacist.
  10. The Council said it had considered Mrs X’s concerns but decided that the information provided by Mrs X did not warrant conducting a safeguarding enquiry.

Analysis

  1. The evidence shows Mrs X did not tell the Council about Mrs A’s injuries until July 2018, seven months after the first injury in December 2017.
  2. The law sets out that a council’s safeguarding duties apply when an adult has needs for care and support, is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect, and is unable to protect themselves. The aim of safeguarding is to prevent harm and reduce the risk of abuse or neglect to adults with care and support needs.
  3. The Council has explained why it decided to take no further action following its consideration of Mrs X’s concerns. The Council explained it could not investigate the circumstances leading up to Mrs A’s injuries because of the time that had passed. The Council also explained it was satisfied there was no ongoing risk to Mrs A because all staff members that had been working at the time she sustained her injury had been fired, or resigned. The Council also confirmed the main care worker suspected of causing the injury to Mrs A no longer worked at the care home.
  4. The Ombudsman cannot find fault with the Council’s decision just because a complainant disagrees with the decision. We must consider whether there was fault in how the decision was made.
  5. In this case, the evidence shows the Council had considered Mrs X’s concerns and had considered the information she provided. The Council has provided a rationale for why it was taking no further action and these reasons were clearly communicated to Mrs X.
  6. I understand Mrs X is disappointed the Council could not comment on who caused her mother’s injuries. However, I am satisfied the Council considered the matter appropriately in line with its safeguarding duties. Therefore, I do not find fault with the Council’s decision to take no further action.
  7. Further, the Council has explained its reasons for not opening a safeguarding enquiry with regards to Mrs X’s concerns about Mrs A’s medication. The evidence shows the Council properly considered Mrs X’s concerns, but was satisfied there was no current risk to Mrs A.
  8. The Council was entitled to reach this decision after consideration of the available evidence. The Ombudsman cannot find fault with the Council’s decision if it has been made properly. Therefore, I do not find fault with the Council for not opening a safeguarding enquiry into Mrs X’s concerns about Mrs A's medication.

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Final decision

  1. I find no fault with the Council’s actions. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.

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Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate

  1. I did not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s safeguarding investigation into an injury her mother sustained in December 2016. This is because Mrs X’s complaint is late and there is no good reason why she could not have complained to the Ombudsman sooner.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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