Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 17 Nov 2016
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Transition Care Plan the Council completed in relation to Mr and Ms X’s son provides adequate information about his needs and how these will be met.
- The complainants, whom I shall call Mr and Ms X, say the care plan the Council has provided for their son, Y, is inadequate.
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))
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information Mr and Ms X provided with their complaint including a copy of the care plan. I considered the guidance on completing such plans and clarified its status with the Council before reaching a draft decision on the complaint.
What I found
- Under the Children Act 1989 a child with a disability is a child in need.
- A council may decide that a child in need should be provided with services in order to meet their needs. This may include the provision of direct services.
- Northamptonshire County Council has a ‘Transitions Team’ which provides support to disabled people between the ages of 14 and 25 years. This team provides a service to young people during the period of transition from child to adult.
- The Council says that young disabled people whose case transfers to the Transitions Team when they are 14 are transferred with their existing core assessment and a child in need care plan. The Council says that if, when the TransitionsTeam, reviews these plans and consider there is a relatively minor change in need (before they become 18) then they deal with this in a separate ‘Transitions Care Plan’. This new Transitions Care Plan would incorporate services and support that were detailed in the Child in Need Care Plan. The Council further says that “the Transitions Care Plan was developed to try and capture more specific detail around Transition planning and Preparing for Adulthood. It added and enhanced the information in the Child In Need Care Plan which is not specifically geared up to detail needs around Transition”.
- Northamptonshire County Council’s guidance of child in need plans states the Child in Need Plan must identify the allocated social worker, any resources or services that will be needed to achieve the planned outcomes within the agreed timescales and who is responsible for which action and the time-scale involved. It goes on to say the plan should:
- describe the identified developmental needs of the child, and any services required, include specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child,
- include realistic strategies and specific actions to achieve the planned outcomes, a contingency plan to be followed if circumstances change significantly and require prompt action, timescales that are not too short or unachievable;
- Not be dependent on resources which are known to be scarce or unavailable;
- Identify the allocated social worker and his or her responsibilities, including frequency of visits to the child;
- Clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of other professionals and family members, including the nature and frequency of contact by professionals with children and family members;
- Lay down points at which progress will be reviewed and the means by which it will be judged.
Background and what happened
- Mr and Ms X’s son, Y, is 16 years old. He has a number of medical conditions which affect his co-ordination, motor skills and speech. He is also diagnosed with aspergers syndrome. Y receives a service from the Council’s Transitions Team.
- Further to a complaint to the Council the Council agreed it would review Y’s care plan because it agreed “the Plan does lack specific detail regarding the provision of the support hours, the flexibility of provision within the week, costs and ancillary costs such as mileage. Additionally it does not include information about the banked hours, which would be helpful to the family. The care manager is now completing an updated plan to include the change of service with the withdrawal of Q care agency and will include the detail required. The care manager will be asking Mr & Ms X to advise her of inaccuracies to ensure that these are removed. The Support Plan will not give specific detail of what tasks the agency will complete at each visit as these arrangements need to be flexible and identified within the specific care plan produced by the agency”.
- Mr and Ms X say this updated care plan still does not contain relevant information or specific detail and that it is not properly named or signed. They say it should define his needs and detail the support and provision that will be put in place to meet his eligible needs.
The updated Transition Care Plan
- Y has a Transition Care Plan to identify his needs and incorporate transition plans to encourage greater independence.
- This care plan is divided into a number of sub-headings which include details of Y’s living arrangements, his medical diagnoses, his identified needs (which includes a description of the situation and the needs arising from this eg. Y “...wears clothing to assist his independence such as Velcro fasteners but needs supervision with dressing/undressing”), and a plan of work as to how and who will meet these needs. Those meeting his needs are his parents and an agency worker and the areas that will be addressed by the agency worker when s/he is out with Y are detailed eg. helping him select appropriate food when out. The banked hours of unused agency hours are detailed and also a plan of how these can be used. The total weekly hours and the cost of these are detailed.
- The plan details three potential emergency situations relating to Y and how these should be managed by agency carers.
- The plan does also refer to the agency workers undertaking activities with Y that are clearly intended to increase his degree of independence.
- The social worker’s details are not provided on the plan and it is not signed or dated. There is nothing in the plan to confirm how often the social worker will visit Y. Whilst this is a requirement of the Child in Need care plan and not specifically the Transitions Care Plan it would seem reasonable to include this information and would be helpful to the family. I do not consider the absence of this information will result in injustice however.
- I consider the plan does provide the other necessary details relating to Y‘s identified needs and it addresses the issues that were identified as not being properly addressed in the earlier plan. It details the support hours to be provided by an agency worker and the cost of these and of the agreed associated travel costs. It refers to the need for flexibility in the delivery of these hours. It also provides details of the banked hours and suggests a way these may be used. It details who will meet the identified needs and how these needs will be met including the hours that will be provided weekly by an agency worker. The plan states that a review will be carried out every 6 months. I note that the Council originally stated that “The Support Plan will not give specific detail of what tasks the agency will complete at each visit as these arrangements need to be flexible and identified within the specific care plan produced by the agency” and the plan does allow for such flexibility whilst detailing the hours that will be provided and the needs to be met.
- The Council will ensure that the date and the completing social worker’s details are provided on the plan. It will also ensure the social worker signs it as this confirms to those reading it that it is a completed document. It would be helpful to the family to also include information about when the Transition team worker will visit Y.
- The Transitions Care Plan provides necessary detail relating to Y’s needs and how these will be met and by whom. The social worker’s name is not provided and the form is not dated and this information should be added. It would be helpful if the form provided details of how often the allocated worker in the Transitions will visit Y as this is a requirement for the Child in Need Plan and I see no reason why this should not be provided in the Transition Plan also.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman