The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Ms B wanted to attend a specialist college to complete a final year of a course. The Council can provide a direct payment so she can decide what care would best meet her needs.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Ms B, has Down Syndrome and other needs. She wanted to spend a third year to finish a course at a specialist college but the Council refused to provide this. Ms B also said the Council failed to put any support in place when she moved back home.
- Her mother, Ms C, complained on Ms B’s behalf but was dissatisfied with the Council’s reply. She asked the Ombudsman to investigate.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. She must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
How I considered this complaint
- I spoke to Ms C on the telephone and considered the information she sent with her complaint. I also made enquiries of the Council and assessed the documentation it provided. I referred to the Care Act 2014. I sent Ms C and the Council a copy of my draft decision and took their comments into account before issuing my decision.
What I found
- Ms B previously attended a specialist college. She took a Living and Work Programme, which she enjoyed. Ms C thought the course was improving Ms B’s skills and would help her in the future. Ms B and Ms C were both happy with the provision and wanted Ms B to continue there for a further year.
- The Council thought Ms B should have a supported living package in the city where she lived rather than risk being ‘institutionalised’ by staying a further year at the college. Ms C disagreed. She pointed out that the college was less than an hour’s drive from her home and family members visited Ms B on weekends. She felt Ms B understood life outside the college environment and would, in any case, be returning home after the additional year.
- Ms C wanted Ms B to be given a personal budget that would allow her to decide the kind of care she wanted in order for her needs to be met.
- The Council says it discussed this in June 2015, but Ms C only wanted a place at the college for Ms B. A direct payment could have been agreed at that point.
- The Council has confirmed that Ms B can have a direct payment. It previously calculated how much it would contribute (when Ms B was at college) by saying it was equivalent to a supported living placement plus three days of supported employment.
- However, the Council wants to identify the right supported living placement for Ms B. It wants to reassess her needs in order to do that. This is not evidence of Council fault.
Failure to put in place support for Ms B at home
- The Council said that Ms C asked for a direct payment for September for the year. Therefore, when Ms B returned from college in the summer term, she was still supported by that direct payment.
- However, because of the disagreement between Ms C and the Council, further support for Ms B has not been put in place. Although there is no evidence of fault (because the Council could have provided this before), the Council has agreed to backdate the payment from when the payment stopped.
- The Council will pay Ms B £687.90 per week backdated until the payments stopped in September. It will continue to do this until it undertakes a reassessment of Ms B’s needs
- There is no evidence of fault by the Council.
Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman