Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 03 Jan 2017
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council was at fault by failing to plan in good time for Mr X’s transfer to adult services when he reached 18. The Council has apologised and will pay £2817.50 for mentoring sessions Mr X missed out on and the distress a period without a placement caused Mr X and his sister, who cares for him.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, is represented by his sister, Miss Y and an advocate, Miss Z.
- Mr X complains the Council failed to provide information for his transition to adult respite services, due in August 2016 in sufficient time for him to have a smooth transition from the respite service he was using for the last six years, causing a delay while another service is put in place;
- He also says the Council has failed to keep its promises to his family in respect of:
- not following their own and national guidelines re timely support for transition for disabled young people; and
- not responding to requests for a transition plan specifically for respite services that was requested by Miss Y in early 2015.
- Finally, he complains the Council called during a religious festival to try to get information that would have been possible prior to the festival starting and, if the transition process had started sooner it could have avoided the delay of needing to wait until the festival was over for further meetings.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She 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, she may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1))
- If the Ombudsman is satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, she can complete her investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i))
How I considered this complaint
- I read Mr X’s complaint and spoke to Miss Z on the telephone. I made written enquiries of the Council. I considered the Council’s response to my enquiries and the documents it provided. I also made further enquiries of the Council and asked Miss Y for further information. I considered the Care Act 2014 and the Ombudsman’s guidance on remedies. I shared a draft of this decision with both parties, invited their comments, and considered those I received.
What I found
- Mr X has several disabilities. His sister Miss Y cares for him. Until age 18 he attended a respite placement regularly. She says Mr X finds change difficult to cope with.
Information for Mr X’s transition
- Mr X was due to transfer from children’s services to adult services once he reached age 18 in August 2016. He would need a new respite care placement. The Care Act 2014 says councils must make sure services are ready for the time of transfer.
- The Council confirmed it started the transition process in October 2014. However, it said a staff member left the Council, someone wrongly closed the case and there were staff shortages. So the Council took no further action until March 2016. It confirmed it had then been unable to get plans for his transition in place before he turned 18.
- The Council was aware of the need to plan for Mr X’s likely new needs almost two years in advance. It should have been able to assess his needs and arrange a new respite placement in good time for his transfer at age 18. Failing to do so was fault.
Failure to keep promises
- I am not aware of any specific promises by the Council to Miss X. However, she had a right to expect the council would adhere to the statutory requirement that services are in place for the time a person transfers from children’s services to adult services. As already stated, failing to do so was fault.
- As the Council failed to take any action in 2015, I find it at fault for failing to provide a transition plan for respite services in a timely way.
Calls during a religious festival
- The Council confirmed it had sent emails and made ‘phone calls during the religious festival. While it might have also have been necessary to do so in other circumstances, it confirmed it was the lateness of its action in planning for Mr X’s transfer that caused this. It has apologised for having to send the emails and make the calls.
- With its response to my enquiries, the Council apologised for its failure to plan properly for Mr X’s transfer to adult services. It also offered to pay Miss Y £500 for the distress caused to her and Mr X by the delay.
- During the investigation Miss Z told me the Council had still not arranged respite care, having offered placements that were not suitable. She said it had also offered a placement that Mr X could only attend if Miss Y agreed to accept direct payments to arrange the care herself.
- In response to my further enquiries, the Council said it felt one of the placements it offered would meet Mr X’s assessed needs. It also provided a copy of an email to Miss Y dated 2 September 2016 in which it suggested one of the placements might be suitable as an interim measure. Further social care notes it provided recorded Miss X had declined a placement on the ground that staff at other institutions he had previously attended had said he would not fit in. The Council also told me it had no contract with the placement for which it had offered Miss Y direct payments.
- Miss Z told me Miss Y had said she would have been happy to accept direct payments for Mr X to attend the placement with which the Council had no contract. The sticking point was that she did not consider it could meet his personal care needs.
- On the basis that Miss X would have accepted direct payments for a placement she considered suitable, I do not find the Council subjected her to an ultimatum. And while Miss Y is clear that none of the placements the Council has offered is suitable for Mr X’s assessed needs, it is not for me to decide whether that is correct. On the basis the Council has offered alternative placements for Mr X and is prepared to make direct payments for a placement of Miss Y’s choice, I do not find it at fault.
- Miss Y reports that Mr X was aware that his placement was to end and that no replacement was ready. She says he has on occasions dressed himself ready to go to his old placement and that they have both found this distressing. I agree the Council’s actions have caused them both moderate distress.
- Although the Council’s emails and calls during the religious festival were a result of its delay and thus fault, the injustice they caused was slight.
- The question that arises is whether the Council is responsible for the continuing lack of a placement.
- It is possible there would have been difficulties agreeing a placement for Mr X even if the Council had acted sooner. However, on the balance of probabilities, it is likely these difficulties would have been resolved before Mr X turned 18. This means at least some of the period lost since August 2016 is the result of fault by the Council. However, the documents the Council has supplied show it identified possible placements and offered Miss Y direct payments during September 2016. She has confirmed she would have accepted direct payments for a placement she felt suitable. I therefore take the view that the Council’s actions gave Miss Y the option of at least an interim placement for Mr X by the end of September 2016. Thus, I do not consider the injustice to Mr X and Miss Y is ongoing.
- While Miss Y could have accepted respite care by late September 2016, the Council has confirmed Mr X was unable to receive mentoring during this period. This was an injustice to him. The Council has offered to pay Miss Y the cost of this mentoring to use for Mr X’s sole benefit.
- The Council has apologised for its failure to meet its duty to plan in good time for Mr X’s transfer to adult care services.
- It will also pay Miss Y £250 for her distress caused by its fault.
- It will also pay Miss Y £2317.50 for mentoring sessions Mr X was unable to receive and £250 for the distress caused to him, making a total for Mr X of £2567.50, the which sum is to be used for the direct benefit of Mr X.
- The total sum the Council will pay is thus £2817.50
- I have upheld the complaint and closed the case as the remedy the Council has offered is suitable for the injustice caused by fault.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman