Vulnerable man put at risk because of safeguarding failings by Wirral council

A vulnerable man remained at risk from poor care for more than 18 months, despite Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council being alerted to problems, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The man, whose health conditions and disabilities meant he had significant difficulty with mobility and completing daily living tasks, received daily visits from agency care workers arranged by the council.

However, his son, who lived 200 miles away was concerned about the quality of care his father received, and the charges relating to that care.

The son also had concerns about carer workers cutting their visits short, despite not meeting his father’s needs properly.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council at fault for closing a safeguarding investigation without completing it, and for failing to comply with its own procedures.

It also found the father was placed at a “significant and avoidable risk of harm over at least 18 months” because calls were cut short despite his needs not being met safely; care workers were not trained properly, and signed for medication they did not give, putting him at increased risk of seizures.

The Ombudsman has also found the council at fault for how it handled the son’s complaint.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“When relatives raise concerns about vulnerable people’s care, it is of paramount importance that councils act promptly to ensure people are safe. Regrettably, in this case this did not happen, and the father was left at risk for far too long.

“Unfortunately, we cannot now put this right for the father because he has passed away. But the measures I have recommended to the council should improve procedures to prevent instances such as this from happening to others.”

The man first raised concerns about his father’s care, and the amounts he was being charged in August 2016.

A review by the council identified care workers had not been using a hoist and sling for transfers, and the assessor was concerned the methods being used were not safe.

Further complaints from the son listed issues such as medication not being administered, the father not being strapped into his wheelchair properly leaving him at risk of falling, and workers not washing up after meal times or dealing with soiled bedding and clothes hygienically.

However, it took the council two months to identify the issues may be a safeguarding risk. When an officer visited the father, she was told a hoist had fallen over with him in it and there had been problems with medication not being administered even though it had been signed for.

The son also raised concerns about invoices for his father’s care, and the threatening letters his father was receiving about payments. He asked council workers to send the invoices to him rather than his father.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council should apologise to the son detailing the faults identified and the action it now intends to take to avoid similar problems in future. It should also refer the case to the local safeguarding board for review.

It should waive half of the father’s care fees and pay the son £200 to remedy the frustration and stress the situation caused him.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public.

In this case, the council should ensure all relevant staff receive safeguarding training to ensure issues are dealt with promptly and appropriately, and review the complaint handling in this case to develop an action plan.

Article date: 09 May 2019

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