Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 19 Jul 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Ms T complains about the way the Council handled her son, C’s, transition from children to adult services. The Council was at fault because it delayed in providing C’s support plan to the care provider but this did not cause him a significant injustice. There was also fault in that C’s support worker failed to tell him about an appointment in respect of his claim for personal independence payment which caused him distress and inconvenience because he did not receive payments for several weeks. The remainder of Ms T’s complaints are not upheld.
- The complainant, whom I will call Ms T, complains about the way the Council handled her son’s transition from children to adult services. In particular, she says:
- her son, C, was placed in an unsuitable housing option (House X);
- C’s admission to House X was rushed and not properly planned. The Council failed to arrange a visit for C before admission;
- the Council failed to provide a copy of C’s support plan to House X before he moved in;
- inadequate support was provided to C while he was at House X which led to the breakdown of the placement. In particular, his daily hours of support were reduced from 15 to 9;
- the support plan provided to House X contained inaccuracies;
- the support plan contained the name of C’s brother and other personal data which Ms T had previously asked the Council to remove;
- C’s funding was cut because a report incorrectly recorded his IQ and learning needs;
- the Council refused to re-house C after deciding he was intentionally homeless; and
- staff at House X failed to inform C of an appointment in respect of his claim for Personal Independence Payment as a result of which he lost benefit.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. 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)
- 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)
- We investigate complaints about councils and certain other bodies. Where an individual, organisation or private company is providing services on behalf of a council, we can investigate complaints about the actions of these providers. (Local Government Act 1974, section 25(7), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered all the information provided by Ms T, made enquiries of the Council and considered its comments and the documents provided. I also considered documents provided by Company Y and information provided by the Department for Work and Pensions.
- I have written to Ms T and the Council with my draft decision and considered their comments.
What I found
- The Care Act 2014 requires local authorities to carry out an assessment for any adult with an appearance of the need for care and support. They must provide an assessment to all people regardless of their finances or whether the local authority thinks an individual has eligible needs. The assessment must be of the adult’s needs and how they impact on their well-being and the results they want to achieve. It must also involve the individual and, where appropriate, their carer or any other person they might want involved.
- The Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2014 sets out the eligibility threshold for adults with care and support needs. The threshold is based on identifying how a person’s needs affect their ability to achieve relevant outcomes, and how this impacts on their well-being. To have needs which are eligible for support the following must apply:
- the needs must arise from or be related to a physical or mental impairment or illness;
- because of the needs, the adult must be unable to achieve two or more of the following:
- managing and maintaining nutrition;
- maintaining personal hygiene;
- managing toilet needs;
- being appropriately clothed;
- being able to make use of their home safely;
- maintaining a habitable environment;
- developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships;
- accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering;
- making use of necessary facilities or services in the local community, including public transport and recreational facilities; and
- carrying out any caring responsibilities the adult has for a child.
- Because of not achieving these outcomes there is likely to be a significant impact on the adult’s well-being.
- C is a young adult with autism and a learning disability. He was not diagnosed with autism until late 2016.
- In June 2015 Ms T requested an autism assessment for C as she was concerned about his behaviour.
- Officer A, a Transitions Team social worker, became involved with C in August 2015 to assist with his transition from children to adult social care. C was living at home with his mother and brother. He was due to leave school in July 2016.
- Ms T was planning to move the family to Wales but C did not want to go. He wanted to live independently in Swindon. Ms T was initially opposed to this because she felt C lacked capacity to decide where he should live and did not think he would be able to cope.
- Officer A completed a mental capacity assessment and asked C’s school whether it had any relevant information. The school referred C to an educational psychologist who completed a report. Having considered the report, Officer A decided C did have capacity to decide where he wanted to live and what support he would need.
- On 7 December 2015 Officer A met with C and Ms T to discuss future plans for C’s care and support. C said he wanted to live in Gloucestershire as he had connections there.
- In February 2016 Officer A approached a sheltered housing provider in Gloucestershire. The provider refused the referral because it was unable to accept referrals from outside the county.
- By May 2016 Ms T was supportive of the idea of C moving into supported living provided the right support was available.
- Officer A completed an assessment and support plan on 19 May 2016. It identified that C’s supported living provision could be either shared accommodation or a flat in a sheltered type of environment where staff are on hand for support. The assessment proposed a supported living package of 23 hours a week to be reviewed after 3 to 4 months. The support was:
- one hour each morning to encourage C to get up, wash, dress and have a healthy breakfast;
- one hour each evening to help with preparation of an evening meal;
- two hours a week for budgeting and personal organisation;
- two hours a week shopping;
- two hours a week laundry and house work; and
- three hours a week to help with finding and settling into social and leisure activities.
- four hours a week for planning, preparing and cooking a main meal and building up a list of healthy recipes;
- two hours a week for budgeting and personal organisation; and
- three hours a week for shopping and prompting with other daily living tasks.
Suitability of House X
- Ms T says shared living is not appropriate for C. He has now been diagnosed with autism and is a vulnerable adult. He requires a home where it is quiet without people coming and going. She says that, although C was ready for independence, he should have been placed somewhere more suitable. She believes House X was not suitable for him and the Council should have realised that. She says it did not give enough consideration to C’s needs.
- The Council remains of the view that House X was a suitable housing option for C and could have worked well for him if he had been able to engage in the support offered by the care provider and keep to the house rules.
- Ms T and C were consulted on the proposal and C agreed to try the placement. Ultimately it was his choice as he was assessed as having capacity to decide where he wanted to live. I therefore find no grounds to criticise the Council in this regard.
C’s admission to House X
- Ms T says C’s admission to House X was not properly planned and was rushed. She felt they were rushed into making a decision. She says Officer A sent her an email advising her a room was available stating “a quick choice would need to be made”.
- I find no grounds to criticise the Council in this regard. The evidence is that between September 2015 and March 2016 a number of options were considered with Ms T and C regarding where C wanted to live, including moving to Wales with Ms T, moving to Gloucestershire, living in Swindon with Ms T or living in his own accommodation in Swindon. Officer A visited C and Ms T regularly to discuss how things were going at home and to keep them updated with regard to future plans.
- C’s learning mentor identified House X as a possible option. Officer A discussed this with Ms T and C. I do not criticise the social worker for stating a quick decision needed to be made. It would not have been possible to keep the room empty for long.
- Ms T says no visit to House X was arranged for C before his admission. The Council says C visited House X with his learning mentor before he agreed to move there.
Failure to provide a copy of C’s support plan to House X before C moved in
- Ms T says Officer A did not inform House X of the extent of C’s needs and she had to give the support workers this information. She says that, if Officer A had given C’s support plan to Company Y sooner, it could have reached a decision as to whether it was able to support his needs.
- Officer A gave a copy of C’s assessment and support plan to Company Y a few days after he moved to House X. The Council accepts it would have been better if this were provided before C moved in. However, it says Officer A spoke to C’s assigned key worker from House X and established Company Y would provide support with the main practical aspects of C’s care and support, including prompting with personal care, house work and laundry, some help with cooking and shopping and help with budgeting, filling in forms and attending appointments.
- The Council’s failure to provide the care provider with a copy of the assessment and support plan before C moved into House X was fault. However, I am satisfied this did not cause a significant injustice because the delay was only a few days and in the meantime support was provided by Company Y. C was also receiving support from his learning mentor.
Support provided at House X/refusal of funding
- Ms T says C received inadequate support while he was at House X which led to the breakdown of the placement. She says C lost weight, ate the same meal daily, was unkempt and his bedroom was a mess.
- The Council says Company Y agreed to provide support with the main practical aspects of C’s care, prompting with personal care and housework and some help with cooking, shopping, managing money, filling in forms and attending appointments. It says it was agreed that if C was struggling there would be a review.
- Officer A was satisfied C had adequate support from Company Y and his learning mentor. When the learning mentor’s support ended he found C was struggling. But the support C was assessed as needing was already being offered by Company Y. The Council says C did not engage with the support offered. He had difficulty taking part in household tasks and keeping to house rules.
- Officer A carried out a review on 2 August 2016 and also met with C and his key worker to try to encourage him to accept support and keep to the rules.
- Ms T says C’s hours of support were reduced from 15 to 9. In the initial assessment Officer A recommended 15 hours support. But, having assessed C in House X, he concluded nine hours was sufficient and therefore amended the support plan. This is a matter for his professional judgement. In any event, the reduction was academic because the support C was identified as needing was already been provided by Company Y. Funding for additional support was not therefore necessary.
- Ms T says the Council refused funding for supported living because a report incorrectly recorded C’s IQ and learning needs. This is incorrect. Officer A prepared an assessment and support plan. When this was considered by the transitions team, they were uncertain whether C met the eligibility criteria for care and support because, although Officer A’s assessment stated he had learning difficulties, the educational psychologist’s report did not appear to confirm this. This was later clarified and the educational psychologist confirmed C should meet the eligibility criteria. However officers then decided that the support C needed was already being provided by Company Y.
The support plan contained inaccuracies and personal data
- Ms T says the care plan had lots of inaccuracies.
- Officer B met with Ms T three times to go through the assessment and agree what was accurate and what should be removed. The Council says the changes proposed at the two meetings have been actioned. However, the assessment is a joint assessment with C and it is important he agrees with the contents. The Council arranged for C to meet with Officer B and his advocate to read through and agree what he would like in the assessment. Officer B went to House X to collect C but he did not want to attend the appointment. The Council has confirmed that if there are further changes Ms T and C would like to make to the assessment, they should inform Officer B who will consider further amendments.
- Ms T says C’s support plan contained the name of his brother and other personal information she had asked the Council to remove.
- The Council has provided a copy of the revised assessment. The name of C’s brother and other personal information has been removed.
The Council’s refusal to re-house C after deciding he was intentionally homeless.
- The Council carried out a homelessness assessment and concluded C was intentionally homeless because he had failed to engage with the support offered to him at House X and had failed to comply with the house rules. C had a right of appeal against this decision.
- Having decided C was intentionally homeless, the Council’s only duty was to provide advice as to the emergency accommodation available. I am satisfied it did this. Officer X also met with an officer from the learning disability health team to discuss other housing options taking account of C’s recent autism assessment. The Council was looking for places in supported living and shared lives schemes. Officer X arranged to meet with C to discuss potential places but C refused to attend the meeting. Ms T did not want him to do so as she felt he could be manipulated. Because of this breakdown in trust the Council allocated a new social worker for C and ultimately found him a place in supported living accommodation. I find no grounds to criticise the Council in this regard.
Loss of personal independence payment
- Ms T says C failed to attend an appointment concerning his PIP claim because staff at House X did not tell him about it and kept his post locked up in the office. She believes C lost out on benefit payments as a result.
- The DWP sent C an appointment for a PIP assessment on 14 September 2016. C failed to attend. On 29 September 2016 C’s support worker at House X wrote to the DWP stating “I wrote his appointment down in the diary in the wrong month. Because of this, not through his own fault, [C] missed his PIP assessment appointment”.
- The DWP accepted there was a good reason for C failing to attend the appointment. On 10 January 2017 it awarded higher rate PIP and backdated his entitlement to the day after his DLA ended (2 November 2016). So, he did not ultimately miss out on any payments. But the support worker’s failure to notify C of the appointment caused him a significant injustice because he did not receive PIP payments between 2 November 2016 and 10 January 2017. During the week prior to his eviction from House X he had no money to buy food and Ms T says he was forced to steal food. When C was evicted from House X he went to stay with her and she supported him but he still suffered the inconvenience of not receiving his PIP payments until January 2017 when his claim was backdated.
- When a council commissions another organisation to provide services on its behalf it remains responsible for those services and for the actions of the organisation providing them. So, although I found fault with the actions of the support worker, I have made recommendations to the Council.
- I recommended the Council pay C £500 in recognition of the distress and inconvenience he suffered during the period 2 November 2016 to 10 January 2017 when he was without income from his PIP claim. The Council has agreed to implement this recommendation.
- I find the Council failed to provide a copy of C’s support plan to House X before he moved in. But I do not consider this caused C a significant injustice.
- I find C’s support worker failed to notify him of the appointment with the DWP which caused him a significant injustice. Although the support worker was employed by Company Y, the Council is responsible for his actions because it commissioned support services from Company Y.
- I do not uphold the other aspects of Mrs T's complaint.
- I have completed my investigation on the basis that the Council has agreed to implement the recommended remedy.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman