Not providing same sex carers can impact dignity, says Ombudsman

An investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has highlighted the need for care providers to make every effort to supply vulnerable clients with same-sex carers, after a family was left without respite for more than two years.

The ombudsman is underlining the advice after a couple complained that Warwickshire County Council did not ensure their daughter’s intimate care needs would be met by female staff at a respite centre, despite it being in her support plan.

The couple’s daughter is in her thirties and has significant needs. She cannot communicate verbally, and is dependent on others for all her personal care. Until 2011 the family used the residential centre for regular breaks. But after February that year – when the centre changed owners – the family became concerned about staffing levels and declined to send their daughter to the home. This meant that the couple were without respite care for two-and-a-half years.

The council did offer a second care home option to the family during the period, but the family turned it down because they said it was unsuitable for their daughter's needs.

Although it is not a legal requirement to provide same sex carers, where a request is made for valid reasons, the LGO maintains that a provider should make every effort to provide same sex care, and the Equality Act 2010 allows for the recruitment of staff of a specific sex as an occupational requirement.

In addition, during that period the family discovered that the new owners of the home had neglected to register it with industry regulators, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the council failed to check the home’s registration.

The couple’s other complaints included the council delaying dealing with both their complaint and its investigation.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

“Under the Equality Act 2010 the need to deliver same-sex care is an ‘objective justification’ for advertising and recruiting workers to fulfil the need. It is not enough for a provider to say 'We cannot guarantee same sex care'. They need to demonstrate that they have made every effort to ensure the service is delivered in the way that is best for the recipient.

“In this case, the family did not feel confident that the council could protect their daughter and the care home could provide the same-sex care that they requested. They have missed vital opportunities to go away on holiday or simply have a break from their caring responsibilities.”

The LGO has recommended that Warwickshire County Council review its advice to care providers regarding employing staff of a specific sex where it is considered a necessary requirement of the job.

The council has already agreed to arrange respite care at the home in line with the daughter’s care plan and support plan, and the home has agreed to offer the guarantee of female carers for intimate care.

The LGO has also recommended the council apologise to the couple and pay them £5,500 for the lack of appropriate respite care services over the past two and a half years and pay them an additional £1,000 for the time and trouble in pursuing the complaint.

Article date: 14 November 2014