Essex County Council (16 011 102)

Category : Adult care services > Transition from childrens services

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 07 Feb 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: there was fault by the Council in failing to make provision for the seven months between March and September 2016 for the social care needs of the complainant’s son, P.

The complaint

  1. Miss N complains that her son, P, had no adult social care or educational provision from the time he left his special residential school in December 2015 until the beginning of October 2016. P had no care plan. Miss N has had no carer’s assessment or help with her care of P.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Miss N provide and discussed the complaint on the telephone with her. I wrote to the Council and considered the documents it provided. I considered Miss N’s further comments. I considered the relevant law and guidance.

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What I found

  1. The Care Act 2014 covers the transition from children’s services to adult social care. In the case of young people approaching the move from children’s services to adult care the Care Act provides for a more seamless transition. The legislative framework for the assessment of children under 18 remains the Children Act 1989 Section 17. The local authority must continue to provide for the young person’s needs under that assessment until it conducts an assessment for adult care under provisions of the Care Act. Draft statutory guidance for local authorities on the Care Act was finalised in March 2016. The authority must assess the person’s needs against eligibility criteria. Where appropriate it then will provide a care and support plan. The guidance says the plan must be person centred. It will detail the person’s needs and how they will be met, linking back to the outcomes the person wishes to achieve. The plan should not be limited to care needs but should cover all aspects of the person’s wishes and aspirations in their daily and community life. It may include participation in work, education, training and recreation. It is reasonable for the authority to consider how to balance its overall budget with meeting the needs of the individual but it should not put an arbitrary upper limit on costs. Decisions should be taken on a case by case basis. The provision chosen should meet the person’s needs for the best value.

What happened

  1. P is 19 years old. He is profoundly deaf and has learning difficulties. His behaviour can be challenging at times. He uses British Sign Language. P turned 18 and was referred to Adult Social Care in March 2014. Miss N has explained the transfer did not go smoothly. The adult team did not take on P’s case immediately and did not allocate a social worker to P until July 2014. P attended a special residential school for the deaf until December 2015. The school closed and P returned home. Miss N is his main carer. She has explained that caring for P was a strain and affected her health.
  2. The Council updated P’s social care assessment in December 2015. It recognized that P needed a high level of support. His needs were complex. Periods of challenging behaviour can occur when there are changes to his routine or when people do not understand him. The assessment recognized that managing P’s needs at home placed a heavy burden on Miss N. P’s challenging behaviour might lead to ‘burn out’ and their relationship breaking down. The assessment said P would need support in the community for a few hours each day.
  3. P’s social worker prepared a report for the Council’s Panel which decides on funding for the care of people with disabilities. The social worker recommended 1:1 support for P five hours day, five days a week for the period 22 February to 29 March 2016. The Panel considered P’s case on 17 February 2016. It did not agree the provision at that stage and asked for further details about the costs.
  4. The social worker visited P at home in May 2016. She updated his assessment. The social worker found that P’s independence skills had regressed. P was not engaged in any education, training or employment. He needed support to use community facilities. The social worker recommended a support package. For an initial period P should have five hours 1:1 support a week to help him decide on his longer term goals. The support would lead on to a long term plan. The Council says provision started on 17 August.
  5. During August and September the Royal Society for Deaf People (RAD) assessed P. From the start of the assessment period a RAD support worker helped P access the community and attend two support groups for the deaf. P’s confidence and communication skills improved. The report recommended the support P would need going forward.
  6. On 30 September the Council’s service manager made an out of panel decision to agree the cost of the support package for P. The total package cost £261.46 a week. It included 10 hours a week of community support and attendance at two clubs. P also would continue to receive seven hours a week personal assistant support from RAD. In addition P would have a one off payment of £280 to help him access community activities, along with an extra 24 hours personal assistant support to help him do this. Once the support package was in place Miss N was satisfied it met P’s needs. In November the service manager agreed to an increase in P’s support after Miss N started a part time job. A support plan set out P’s views, plans for the future and the support in place. P was enthusiastic about his support and activities.
  7. Miss N says she had to rely on social care services to meet P’s needs. She felt very much on her own after P returned home. She hopes the Council will make sure other families receive the support they need without delay.

Analysis

  1. P came home in December 2015 when his residential school closed. I assume he otherwise would have stayed at school longer. There would have been more opportunity then for planning P’s transition to adult life. As it was, the assessment carried out in December recognized that P had complex needs and Miss N would need help in caring for him. The social worker put to the Panel a request for funding for a support package. The Panel did not agree it at the time. If the Council had made provision for P then I doubt there would have been grounds to find any fault. But Miss N carried on caring for P with no support. The Council has not explained why it took a further seven months before it agreed to meet the cost of the support package from the end of September. From August P had some support from RAD and attended groups. But it was not the full level of support he received later.
  2. The social worker’s assessment in May showed that P had regressed. His needs were not being met. Miss N has explained the effect on her of caring for P with no support. I would decide they each were caused an injustice as a result of a delay which should have been avoided.

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Recommended and agreed action

  1. The Council has agreed to take the following action:

Write to P and Miss N to apologise for failing to meet P’s social care needs for seven months;

To recognize the extra strain placed on Miss N in caring for P the Council should pay her £250 for each of the five months between March and July 2016 when P received no support, and £150 for the months of August and September when he received limited support. The total amount is £1,450.

Pay P £150 for each of the five months between March and July 2016. The total amount is £750.

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Final decision

  1. There was fault by the Council in failing to make provision for P’s social care needs for seven months.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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