Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 20 Aug 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There was unreasonable delay by the Council in completing an adult care assessment for the complainant’s son during his transition to adult care and support. The Council agreed to a financial remedy to reflect the injustice caused to the complainant.
- Mrs X complains about unreasonable delay by the Council in completing an adult care assessment for her son. She also complains about the Council’s handling of information on her son.
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)
- 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 considered the complaint and background information provided by Mrs X and the Council. I spoke with Mrs X by telephone. I sent a draft decision statement to Mrs X and the Council and considered Mrs X’s comments in reply.
- Under the information sharing agreement between the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), we will share this decision with Ofsted.
What I found
- The Special Education Needs Code of Practice says a local authority should ensure that the transition to adult care and support is well planned, is integrated with the annual reviews of the EHC plans and reflects existing special educational and health provision that is in place to help the young person prepare for adulthood.
- Assessments for adult care and support must consider:
- Current needs for care and support
- Whether the young person is likely to have needs for care and support after they turn 18, and
- If so, what those needs are likely to be and which are likely to be eligible needs.
Background to the complaint
- Mrs X’s son is autistic. He was 18 in the autumn of 2016 when she was contacted by a social worker from the Council’s community learning disability team. The officer arranged a home visit for a transition assessment of her son. The officer met with Mrs X and her son twice in October 2016. He told her he would then send her the assessment document for her agreement. The officer did not do so.
- Mrs X heard from the Council again in February 2017 when she was told the social worker had left the Council’s employment. A different social worker then restarted the assessment. Mrs X says the new social worker arranged an appointment with her but then did not turn up. Mrs X had changed her shifts to accommodate the appointment.
- A third social worker contacted Ms X in March 2017. The social worker started the assessment process again. The officer met with Mrs X in March 2017 and with both Mrs X and her son in June 2017.
- Mrs X’s son had an annual review of his EHC plan in November 2017 at his school. The Council undertook to complete the assessment by December 2017 at the meeting.
- In January 2018, the social worker again met with Mrs X at her home. The social worker again committed to finalising the assessment.
- Mrs X chased matters with the social worker in March 2018. The social worker referred to completing the assessment document in time for a panel meeting in April.
- Mrs X again chased matters in May 2018 when she was informed the social worker was away on sick leave. Mrs X then made a formal complaint to the Council. She also complained about the security of the various hand-written notes made by the social workers.
- The Council’s response in June 2018 accepted there had been a delay in completing the assessment. It said Mrs X received an inconsistent service from the community learning disability team. It said it was reviewing the transition process to look at how the transition for young people with complex needs can be streamlined. It said it was developing a protocol to deal with this.
- The Council said the notes made by the social workers was held securely in its offices and so it was confident they were secure.
- Mrs X’s son received support from children’s services during this period. But Mrs X was aggrieved and anxious because there was still no indication of what would happen in terms of future provision for her son in terms of education, transport or finance. Mrs X was also aggrieved because her son is due to start a new education placement in September 2018. This is a big change for her son and she needed certainty about his circumstances so she could prepare him for the changes.
- The Council recently completed the assessment. It found Mrs X’s son had eligible needs which the Council would meet. The Council approved a care package in July 2018.
- The Council has now completed the transition assessment but I find there was unreasonable delay before the Council completed the process. The impact of the delay is ameliorated by the fact that Mrs X’s son still received support from Children’s Services as set out in his EHC plan.
- Nonetheless, I recommended the Council makes a time and trouble payment of £200 to Mrs X. This reflects the distress and avoidable time and trouble she was put to in pursuit of matters with the Council and the Ombudsman. The Council agreed to make the payment.
- I note Mrs X’s suspicion about the security of the information held by the Council. The Council said it is securely held in its offices. I have no reason to doubt the Council’s word and I am unaware of any breach of data security by the Council that would give reason to question what the Council said.
- I found fault by the Council which caused an injustice to Mrs X. I closed the complaint because the Council agreed to remedy the injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman