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Council fails to provide family with respite care for too long, ombudsman says

Redcar and Cleveland Council failed to provide respite care for the family of a boy with complex special educational needs which include Autism, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The mother of the boy, who herself has Autism and other medical conditions, complained that the council failed to provide the respite care it agreed they were entitled to, even when she was in hospital.

The boy had three-to-one overnight care until April 2020, when his provider ended its package following an incident with the boy. In July that year the council agreed to increase the amount of overnight provision to 74 nights per year, via a different specialist service. However, the provider suspended its service the same month because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The only alternative the council could offer was a provider that would care for the boy in the family home, but the mother had concerns about the level of care and support it could offer.

At one point, the mother had to go into hospital for surgery, and the council failed to provide any respite when she was discharged. Shortly after, the mother was injured by the child and had to return to hospital.

Overnight care was not provided to the family until June 2021. But in August that year, the mother told the council she could not cope with her son’s level of need, and the next month the respite was cancelled because of staff sickness.

In July of this year, the boy started a full-time residential placement, but this has since fallen through as it was felt this could not meet the boy’s needs. The boy remains a ‘looked after child’, and the council is proactively seeking a new placement for him.

The family complained to the Ombudsman after first going through the council’s own complaints process. The Ombudsman’s investigation found fault with council’s failure to provide overnight respite services for the family. It also found the council did not consider the family’s complaint about discrimination properly.

The Ombudsman has also found the council did not have due regard to the family’s right to enjoy a family life.

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

“This family – and the mother in particular – have experienced  significant stress and strain because of the council’s failure to put in place the respite support they so clearly needed.

“While I appreciate the difficulties the council faced sourcing appropriate support during the height of the pandemic, it still had a legal duty to provide the agreed care.

“I’m pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, and hope the new respite facility it is creating will ensure other families are not left in a similar position in future.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay them a combined £6,100 for the distress caused and to make up for the child’s missed opportunities.

It will also proactively seek a new residential placement for the child as soon as possible.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will provide the Ombudsman with clarification of when a new respite facility will be available to provide respite care, and the steps it has taken to ensure this is available as soon as possible.

Related Content : Redcar & Cleveland Council (22 001 507)

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