Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 22 May 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr and Mrs B complain about delays to their daughter’s transition from children’s to adult services, the level of direct payments the Council assessed her as needing, and the suitability of a new day centre. The transition took longer than planned, but this delay did not cause C an injustice, because she continued to receive her existing support. The Council was not at fault in its needs assessment, or for the day centre it has made available.
- The complainants, whom I refer to as Mr and Mrs B, complain about how the Council has managed their daughter’s transition from children’s to adult services. I refer to their daughter as C.
- Mr and Mrs B say that the Council:
- Did not complete a transition assessment or organise support in time for C’s 18th birthday;
- Provided an adult day centre which is not suitable for C’s needs;
- Only assessed C as needing 14 hours of support a week, which is not enough; and
- Did not make direct payments to the family for several months in 2017.
What I have investigated
- I have investigated Mr and Mrs B’s complaints about the transition assessment and support delay, the adult day centre, and the level of support set out in C’s assessment.
- The final paragraph of this decision statement sets out why I have not investigated other matters.
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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I spoke to Mr B about the complaint, and considered information provided by Mr and Mrs B and the Council.
- I wrote to Mr and Mrs B, and the Council, with my draft decision and gave them the opportunity to comment.
What I found
- I will analyse each part of Mr and Mrs B’s complaint in turn, below.
Assessment and support not ready for C’s 18th birthday
- In 2016 C was receiving support from children’s services. This support amounted to attendance at a day centre twice a month during term time, and three times a week during school holidays.
- The Council attempted to start an adult social care (ASC) assessment in October 2016 but, initially, Mr and Mrs B did not agree to the social worker visiting C in school. They agreed for him to do this in December.
- The Council completed the assessment in February 2017 and sent it to Mr and Mrs B to comment on. In March they said they had misplaced the assessment, so the Council sent them another copy. In April Mr and Mrs B said they agreed with C’s needs as set out in the assessment.
- In June the Council met with Mr and Mrs B to discuss the direct payment which would be provided to meet C’s needs. They did not agree with the Council’s plan, which was for £309 a week during term time and £618 a week during school holidays.
- C turned 18 on 23 July 2017. She continued to receive the day centre support she had been receiving from children’s services.
- In August a new social worker updated the assessment but did not change the direct payment eligibility. The assessment was completed at this point, and was ‘signed off’ by a manager in September.
- In September the Council also met with Mr B, who requested around £1400 a week for C’s care. The Council did not agree to this.
- In October the Council met with Mr and Mrs B again and confirmed the direct payment eligibility. It also agreed to pay for the day centre support which C had been receiving from children’s services, in addition to the direct payment.
- The Council did not finalise the direct payment until 11 December; however it provided back-pay to 1 September.
Care and support statutory guidance
- Section 16 of the guidance provides instructions to councils on how to support transitions between children’s and adult services.
- Paragraph 16.8 says councils should carry out transition assessments of young people who are likely to have care and support needs after they turn 18. Paragraph 16.9 says assessments of young people in receipt of support from children’s services should be carried out “as they approach adulthood”.
- Paragraph 16.17 says:
When transition assessments take place too late and care and support is arranged in a hurry, it can result in care and support which does not best meet the young person or carer’s needs – and sometimes at greater financial cost to the local authority than if it had been planned properly in advance.
- Paragraph 16.68 says that, if a young person has been receiving support from children’s services, and if adult care and support is not in place on their 18th birthday, councils must continue providing the support they had been providing until the adult support is in place.
- A Council’s duty, when a young person is receiving support from children’s services, is to assess whether their support needs will continue after they have turned 18. If they will continue to need support, then this support should be arranged without delay. There should be no gap in services at any point.
- The Council began its ASC assessment of C in December 2016 and had identified her adult support needs by February 2017 – five months before her 18th birthday. This, in theory, left plenty of time for the Council to arrange provision which would start when she turned 18.
- However, when the Council met with Mr and Mrs B in June, they made clear that they did not agree with the proposed direct payment. The Council spent some time negotiating with Mr and Mrs B about this, before finalising the direct payment in October (with additional day centre support).
- It is not fault for a council to attempt to reach an agreement with a young person or their family before finalising support. The Care Act 2014 places significant responsibilities on councils to make planning person-centred, and this means working with young people and their families before deciding what, and how, support will be provided.
- As a result of this disagreement from Mr and Mrs B (and the Council’s attempts to reach an agreement), C’s adult support was not in place on her 18th birthday. Because of this, the Council was under the duty to continue providing the support C had been receiving from children’s services until the adult support was in place. It did so.
- Ideally, C’s adult support would have been in place on her 18th birthday. However, the Council assessed her needs in good time before this, and I do not consider it to have been at fault in its attempts to negotiate with Mr and Mrs B about the direct payment. It complied with its statutory duty to continue providing existing support until the matter was resolved, so there was no gap in C’s services. Although the direct payment was not arranged until December, it was back-dated to 1 September. This meant that, over the summer holidays, C attended the day centre three times a week, and the direct payment eligibility started immediately afterwards.
- Although the process took longer than it could have done, I do not consider this to be a fault significant enough to amount to maladministration, nor do I consider C to have been caused an injustice. As a result, I have not found fault with the Council.
New adult day centre is not suitable for C’s needs
- Mr and Mrs B were given two options of adult day centres in December 2016. The plan, at that time, was for them to choose their preferred centre and for C to begin going there when she turned 18.
- Since that point, C has been allowed to continue attending the centre she has attended for several years, even though she is now 18. She will be allowed to continue going there until July 2018, when she turns 19.
- The Council’s view is that one of the adult centres offered would meet C’s needs, because the service is designed to meet the needs of young people and adults with needs similar in complexity to hers. It says Mr and Mrs B still have the opportunity to visit this service, as well as others, to decide which one would be most suitable for C when she turns 19.
- Given that C’s current day centre has allowed her to continue going there, she has experienced no injustice. I cannot speculate about what injustice she may experience from a decision which has not yet been made.
- It will be for the Council to work with Mr and Mrs B over the coming weeks to identify a day centre which will meet C’s needs. However, I have not found fault with the day centre provision the Council has made available to C so far.
14 hours of support a week is not enough
- I cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. I must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached.
- C receives a direct payment of £309 a week during term time and £618 a week during school holidays. Even during term time, this does not equate to 14 hours of care, unless C’s carers are paid around £20 per hour. If the carers were paid a more typical rate, the direct payment could pay for anything up to around 30 hours of care a week.
- In addition to the direct payment, C continues to receive day centre support twice a month during term time and three times a week during school holidays. Mr and Mrs B also receive carers grants of £400 a year each.
- Given that Mr and Mrs B are in agreement with the needs identified by the Council in its ASC assessment, the disagreement is that those needs warrant a higher level of direct payment.
- This is a matter of professional judgment, and the Council has made its decision having considered C’s assessed needs. The Council considers that the payments are sufficient to meet those needs. I do not consider there to have been fault in the assessment itself, so I cannot question the direct payment decision.
- The Council was not at fault in how it managed C’s transition from children’s to adult services. The transition took longer than planned, but this delay did not cause C an injustice, because she continued to receive her existing support. The Council was not at fault in its needs assessment, or for the day centre it has made available.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- I did not investigate Mr and Mrs B’s complaint about not receiving direct payments for several months, because the Council resolved this issue and back-dated the payments. As a result, I am satisfied with the action the Council has already taken, and I do not consider there to be any injustice which has not already been remedied.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman