Birmingham City Council (19 006 616)

Category : Adult care services > Transition from childrens services

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 23 Jul 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B complains the Council’s transition team did not support him to transition from children’s to adults’ services. Mr B says his request to delay a placement move was not properly considered. The Ombudsman has found fault with the Council for failing to reassess Mr B’s needs following significant life events and consider his needs when deciding not to delay his placement move. The Council has agreed to apologise to Mr B, make a payment to him to recognise the avoidable distress caused by its faults and to provide training for its staff.

The complaint

  1. Mr B complains the Council’s transition team did not support him to transition from children’s to adults’ services. Mr B says his request to delay a placement move was not properly considered.
  2. Mr B says he had to move to a new placement soon after his mother died, and this caused him stress and anxiety.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered:
    • Mr B’s complaint and the information he provided;
    • documents supplied by the Council;
    • relevant legislation and guidelines; and
    • the Council’s policies and procedures.
  2. Mr B and the Council had an opportunity to comment on a draft decision

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What I found

Legislation and Guidance

  1. The Children and Social Work Act 2017 says councils must have regard to the seven corporate parenting principles when exercising their functions in relation to care leavers. These include:
    • to act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and wellbeing, of those children and young people.
    • to encourage those children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings; and
    • to take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children and young people.
  2. The Care Act 2014 sets out councils’ responsibilities to assess the needs of adults in their area. An assessment identifies an individual’s needs, how they impact on their well-being and the outcomes the person wants to achieve in day to day life.
  3. Councils must undertake an assessment for any adult with an appearance of need for care and support, regardless of whether the council thinks the individual has eligible needs or their financial situation. Councils must consider all the adult’s care and support needs, regardless of any support being provided by a carer.
  4. Councils must involve the adult, their carer if they have one, and anyone else the adult asks to be involved or who has an interest in their welfare. The Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2014 set the minimum threshold at which needs must be met by a council.
  5. An adult’s needs are eligible when they arise from physical or mental impairment or illness; the adult cannot achieve two or more specified outcomes because of those needs; and there is likely to be a significant impact on the adult’s wellbeing.
  6. The specified outcomes include:
    • Managing and maintaining nutrition.
    • Maintaining a habitable home 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 or services.
  7. Once a council has determined eligibility, it must provide the person assessed with a copy of their decision. Where a council finds a person has no eligible needs, it must provide information and advice about what can be done to meet or reduce their needs.

Birmingham City Council adult transitions team

  1. The transitions team offers advice, guidance and support to disabled young people, with a range of disabilities or complex health needs who are between the ages of 18 to 25 years.
  2. The team works with young people to:
    • understand what their ongoing care and support needs might be;
    • help them to identify and achieve their goals; and
    • connect the young person to services available to support them.
  3. Leading up to the young person’s eighteenth birthday a transition social worker will meet with the young person and their family. The social worker will identify the young person’s care and support needs including goals or aspirations and their eligibility under the Care Act 2014.
  4. The transition social worker will work with the young person, their family or carer to put together a support plan/move-on plan. This plan will show how the young person’s needs will be met and outcomes achieved.
  5. The transition social worker will carry out a financial assessment to work out if they need to make a financial contribution towards their care.
  6. Regular reviews help the transitions social worker to update the plan if anything changes as the young person goes through transition to adulthood. The young person’s support will continue with the transition team to the age of 25, when they will transfer to their local constituency team.

Birmingham complaints procedure

  1. The Council have a two-stage procedure for adult social care complaints.
  2. Stage 1: An appropriate officer responds to the complaint. All Stage 1 complaints should be acknowledged within three working days and a full written reply sent within 20 working days.
  3. Stage 2: The complaint is reviewed by a senior manager. All Stage 2 complaints should be responded to within 20 working days.

What happened

  1. This chronology includes key events in this case and does not cover everything that happened.
  2. Mr B is a care leaver. He has been diagnosed with Autism and physical health problems. Mr B’s 18th birthday was in July 2018.
  3. In June 2018, the Council’s transition team began a Care Act 2014 assessment of Mr B’s needs. The assessment said he needed support with:
    • Managing and maintaining nutrition.
    • Maintaining a habitable home environment.
    • Developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships.
    • Accessing and engaging in work, training, education or volunteering.
  4. The transitions team decided this support could be provided in a shared lives placement. Mr B felt that one visit was not enough to assess his needs.
  5. In July 2018, the shared lives service arranged for Mr B to visit a shared lives carer. Mr B moved in with the carer but the placement broke down shortly after. Mr B moved back into the children’s home he had been living in before the shared lives placement.
  6. In August 2018, the children’s home Mr B lived in contacted the transitions team. It told the transitions team Mr B would struggle financially with the amount he would need to pay for a shared lives placement. The children’s home said Mr B had not expected to pay so much every month and felt stressed. The shared lives service said the Council would complete a financial assessment for Mr B.
  7. The shared lives service took Mr B to visit a new placement and discussed the financial implications.
  8. In September 2018, the shared lives service asked the transitions team to make a budget request for Mr B’s placement. The service said the transitions team needed to attend a pre-move meeting and gave it details of the meeting; Mr B’s social worker from the transitions team did not attend and sent apologies. At the meeting, professionals and Mr B agreed he would move into the shared lives placement at the beginning of November 2018.
  9. In October 2018 Mr B’s mother went into hospital and he told the shared lives service that his placement move may need to be delayed. Shared lives advised adult social care. Mr B’s mother died shortly after she was admitted to hospital. Mr B says he asked for his placement move to be delayed by seven days. The shared lives services asked the transitions team if it would fund Mr B’s placement at the children’s home for longer so his placement move could be delayed. His transitions team social worker said Mr B’s move had to go ahead as planned.
  10. Mr B moved into a shared lives placement in November 2019.
  11. Mr B asked the transitions team what its role would be going forward. The transitions team said it would review his current placement. It said once this had happened, Mr B would not be allocated to a worker but would be attached to the team until he was 25 years old.
  12. The shared lives placement review took place in December 2018. Mr B’s social worker from the transitions team could not attend.
  13. In February 2019, the transitions team arranged for a review of Mr B’s placement because he was struggling to pay his assessed contribution. At the meeting, Mr B asked to move to a placement closer to his family.

Complaint procedure

  1. In May 2019, Mr B complained to the Council that:
    • 1) his mother passed away in October 2018 and he asked the Council for more time to sort his affairs before moving to a new placement, but his request was refused;
    • 2) his transitions social worker did not support him;
    • 3) his social worker did not respond to an invitation to his 28-day review of his shared lived accommodation; and
    • 4) his social worker did not attend his 28-day review of his shared lived accommodation.
  2. Mr B asked the Council to apologise, allocate a new social worker, confirm the role of the transitions team and provide contact details for the team.
  3. The Council responded in June 2019. The Council:
    • did not uphold complaint 1 saying the date of Mr B’s placement move was agreed at a meeting the transitions team did not attend, and therefore the decision was out of its control.
    • partially upheld complaint 2 because there was no evidence Mr B met his transition team social worker. The Council explained there were periods when the social worker was absent from work, and she could not contact Mr B.
    • upheld complaint 3 because although his social worker was absent, the transitions team should have arranged for someone to attend Mr B’s placement review in her place.
    • did not uphold complaint 4 saying although Mr B’s social worker could not attend the meeting, a member of staff from the transitions team attended in her place.
  4. The Council said a new social worker would be allocated to Mr B nearer the time of his next review in March 2020. The Council said the investigation of the complaint had shown the following learning points for the Directorate; “The need for the Directorate to offer a sincere apology”. The Council did not apologise in this letter.
  5. Mr B asked for the complaint to be considered at stage 2. The Council upheld complaint 2 and 3 and did not uphold complaint 1 or 4. The Council apologised to Mr B’s for his experience with the transition team.

Analysis

  1. The Council’s transitions team rejected Mr B’s request to delay his placement move following the death of his mother. The Council told the Ombudsman Mr B’s transitions social worker decided funding would not be agreed because the placement at the children’s home was more expensive than the shared lives placement; the request was not taken to panel. The Council pointed out that after his mother’s death, Mr B had spent time away from the home with his siblings. Given the situation, it is understandable that Mr B wanted to spend time with his family.
  2. There is no evidence the Council considered Mr B’s needs following his mother’s death. The social worker that made the decision not to extend his placement at the children’s home had never met Mr B in person and did not speak to him about it. Indeed, the transitions team had only met Mr B once. The Council’s transition team fettered its discretion by failing to consider Mr B’s exceptional circumstances and that his needs may have changed as a result when it decided to reject his request; this was fault.
  3. As Mr B is a care leaver the Council should have had regard to the corporate parenting principles; in this case it did not. There is no evidence that the Council considered Mr B’s views and wishes when it decided not to delay his placement move, nor is there any evidence the Council considered the impact this would have on his mental health and well-being. Extending Mr B’s placement at the children’s home would have given him more time to grieve in an environment he was familiar with and to get his affairs in order before moving.
  4. The Council says regular reviews help the transitions social worker to update the plan if anything changes as the young person goes through transition to adulthood. Mr B lost his mother in August and moved placements in November 2018. No one from the transitions team attended Mr B’s pre-placement meeting or his 28-day placement review; this is fault. Indeed, the transitions team did not review Mr B’s needs until February 2020 despite significant changes in his personal circumstances; this was fault.
  5. These faults were compounded by faults in the Council’s complaint procedure:
    • The Council’s stage 1 complaint response said its learning from the investigation was, “The need for the Directorate to offer a sincere apology”. However, the Council did not apologise at stage 1; this was fault.
    • In the Council’s stage 1 and 2 complaint response it said the decision not to delay Mr B’s placement move was made in the shared lives pre-placement meeting and was therefore out of the transitions team’s control. This was not the case. The planning meeting happened before Mr B’s mother died. Wrongly stating the transitions team was not responsible for the decision not to delay Mr B’s placement move is fault. In its response to the Ombudsman, the Council said it would like to offer Mr B an apology for this error.
    • The Council did not uphold complaint 4 at stage 1 or 2. It said although Mr B’s social worker did not attend his 28-day review of his shared lived accommodation, a member of staff from the transitions team attended in her place. This is not supported by the minutes of the meeting which records that no one from the transitions team attended. The Council’s response was wrong, and this was fault.

Injustice

  1. Mr B’s request for his placement move to be delayed by seven days was not properly considered by the Council. Mr B had to move to a new placement two weeks after his mother died. Mr B says this caused him anxiety and stress.
  2. The injustice experienced by Mr B was compounded by failures in the Council’s complaint handling. These failures led to him feel that he was not being listened to or taken seriously because he is a care leaver with a learning disability.

Agreed action

  1. Within one month of the final decision, the Council will:
    • Apologise to Mr B for the faults identified.
    • Provide Mr B with a single point of contact for the transitions team.
    • Meet with Mr B and his advocate to discuss the role of the transitions team.
  2. Within two months of the final decision, the Council will:
    • Pay Mr B £500 for the avoidable distress caused by the Council’s fault.
    • Provide training for the transitions team about its duties to care leavers.
  3. The Council should provide the Ombudsman with evidence that these actions have been completed.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation and uphold Mr B’s complaint. Mr B has been caused an injustice by the actions of the Council. The Council has agreed to take action to remedy that injustice. 

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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