Salford woman left without proper support because council failed to reassess her

A Salford woman with autism was left without proper support after the city council failed to review her care plan for more than five years, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The Ombudsman’s investigation also found Salford City Council has not carried out any autism awareness training for staff – questioning whether more people have been affected by the same problems.

The woman was assessed for the care and support she needed with domestic tasks and accessing the community in 2013. In 2018 her support agency withdrew its services because she had not paid the workers’ expenses.

Originally, the council paid both fees and expenses, but it has since changed its arrangements so that providers now recover expenses directly from its service users. However, this was never explained to the woman, and so she was not aware there was a problem.

The woman complained to the council, and when she was unhappy with the council’s response she complained to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council at fault for not reviewing the woman’s care plan for more than five years, and for not adhering to the most fundamental parts of the Care and Support Statutory Guidance.

The investigation found that while the council’s second investigation into the woman’s complaint was good, had it reacted properly to her first complaint much of the subsequent problems she experienced could have been avoided.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said:

“Under the Care Act authorities have a duty to review care and support plans at least every 12 months. In this case the woman was not properly reassessed for more than five years. Two doctors’ letters were on file, but these cannot constitute a proper annual review or reassessment.

“It is difficult to say just what impact this lack of oversight has had on the woman, but the council would have had the chance to properly consider her changing needs had it reviewed and updated her care plan in the correct way.

“However, the council’s response to my report has been very positive. I’m particularly encouraged by the proactive steps the council is taking to improve its service above and beyond what I have recommended, and I hope this ensures other people will not have the same difficulties in future.”

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 has agreed to reinstate the woman’s care and support plan, including payment of her expenses while it arranges to reassess her. The assessment should be carried out by a social worker with training and experience in the needs of autistic people.

The council has also agreed to pay the woman £1,000 for her distress and a further £200 for the time and trouble of bringing the complaint.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to undertake an audit of all adult care recipients in the area to ensure their care and support plans have been reviewed and updated appropriately. It will also arrange training so that NHS staff carrying out the council’s adult social care functions are up-to-date on their responsibilities around carrying out assessments and writing care plans.

It will also make arrangements for relevant staff to receive autism awareness training.

Article date: 10 October 2019

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