Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 06 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s support of Ms X and her son, Mr Y, while he transitioned to adulthood. No useful outcome would be achieved by investigating. Ms X and Mr Y can ask the Council to further assess the situation if they want or need more help.
- Ms X and Mr Y complain that the Council failed to give Mr Y the support he needed during his transition from children’s to adult services. Ms X says she is not satisfied with the Council’s responses to her questions about such matters as: a) the changes of social worker, b) her son being put on a list for supported living accommodation when he did not want that help, and c) the lack of meetings with the intensive support team since early 2017.
- Ms X complains that the Council failed to provide her with her own carer’s assessment and failed to give her proper support.
- Ms X complains that the Council’s complaint handling has caused distress and made her son distrustful of professionals. She says the Council has not acknowledged the need to make service improvements or improve communication or dealt with the lack of support.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
- We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools or other educational establishments maintained by the council. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered all Ms X’s information, comments and her reply to my draft decision statement. The information includes the complaint to the Council and the reply from the two services which provided the services on behalf of the Council.
What I found
- I understand that two organisations acted on behalf of the Council in this matter: 1) ‘Focus independent social work’ which provided a social worker from March 2014, and 2) Care Plus Group’s intensive support team involved with Mr Y, from January 2016. Those agencies responded to Ms X’s complaint. However, the Council retains responsibility for actions taken on its behalf.
- In July 2014 a social worker with the long-term team took over responsibility for Mr Y’s case. Mr Y has difficulties arising from an autism related condition. In late 2016 the case officer was absent from work for some four months during which time a stand in social worker took over.
- In June 2016 Mr Y was arrested for an incident at home where he lived with Ms X. Ms X says Y was ‘dumped’ in a bread and breakfast for a time and his college did not give him proper support.
- In late 2016, when Mr Y was an adult, he was excluded from college. Mr Y was arrested for assaulting Ms X and bailed to live with his father. Ms X tells me that the bail conditions stated that her son could not contact her or live at her address. Ms X says Mr Y behaved this way because no one was attending to his mental health needs or his college situation, and that he did not want a supported living arrangement.
- The complaint reply says that the possibility of a supported living arrangement was discussed from December 2015 until around March 2017. At that time Mr Y returned to live with his mother and his name was removed from the list. The Council says that supported living was discussed as an option and in the context of crisis management.
- From March 2017 Mr Y stopped seeing his social worker and confirmed that he did not want one. In July 2017 there was a meeting between the social worker, Ms X and Mr Y in which it was agreed that a social worker was not needed and the case would be closed. Advice was given about how to request such support if needed in the future. Ms X tells me her son did not have a choice.
- In late 2017 a worker from the intense support team was continuing to give Mr Y individual support, meeting once a week. The complaint reply says the intense support team failed to minute a meeting held in January 2017 and failed as a result to organise a further meeting. It says lessons will be learnt to ensure this does not happen again.
- Two carer assessments were completed on Ms X in late 2015 and July 2016. The assessment in 2016 found Ms X was supported by advocacy services, adult psychology, and had access to a carers centre. The Council included Ms X’s carer assessment in its assessment of Mr Y. It has apologised to Ms X for not telling her she had the right to have her needs recorded separately.
- Ms X first contacted the Ombudsman by telephone in May 2017 and was advised to complain to the Council. The Council’s agencies replied, on 2 October, to the detailed written complaint received in June. The letter advised Ms X she could return to the Ombudsman. In January 2018, Ms X sent her written complaint to the Ombudsman.
- I will not investigate this complaint for the following reasons:
- I have not seen evidence suggesting the Council has failed to meet Mr Y’s needs in the last 12 months. The social work support effectively ended around March 2017 when Mr Y returned home to live with Ms X. He continued involvement with the intense support team worker. I understand that he took up a place at college. If Ms X or Mr Y want further help they will need to make a new referral to the Council.
- I do not consider a useful outcome would be achieved by investigating events between June 2016 and January 2017. There is no fault in the Council considering accommodation options including supported living. Y did not move to supported living and there is insufficient evidence of injustice arising from his name being on an accommodation list. Mr Y stopped living with Ms X for a time and that was largely due to what had happened and the consequent bail conditions. The Ombudsman cannot investigate the actions of the college (see paragraph 6 above).
- There is insufficient evidence of injustice regarding the assessment or support given to Ms X. In July 2016 the Council completed a carers assessment of Ms X who had access to a carers support service.
- There is insufficient reason to investigate the complaint handling. The Council explained its position and replied to Ms X’s questions in detail albeit she is not satisfied by all the responses. Ms X was not caused injustice by the time taken to reply to the complaint or the refusal of a resolution meeting.
- Events before May 2016 are outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction on the 12 month rule (see paragraph 5 above). This restriction also covers those events in late 2016, for example relating to education, which Ms X first complained to the Ombudsman about this year. Ms X is complaining too late about earlier events and could have complained sooner. The Ombudsman will not therefore exercise our discretion to investigate.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s support of Ms X and her son, Mr Y, while he transitioned to adulthood. No useful outcome would be achieved by investigating. Ms X and Mr Y can ask the Council to further assess the situation if they want or need more help.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman