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Croydon council fails to provide respite for disabled teen’s mum

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has criticised London Borough of Croydon for failing to provide respite care for the mother of a disabled teenager because it would cost too much.

The council argued that the care for the teen, who has Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and is largely non-verbal, would cost significantly more than the average placement. This was despite the council not assessing the teenager’s specific needs properly or taking into account he might need more than one-to-one care.

The teenager, who can display a range of increasingly challenging behaviours, needs skilled carers who understand how to meet his specific needs. Until he was 16, he attended a residential school as a day pupil, which also offered weekly overnight respite care.

The school stopped providing respite care in December 2019. The council made enquiries with other providers but none could meet the teenager’s needs. When the mother found a provider that could offer the support her son needed, the council would not agree, saying it cost too much. She could only pay for limited respite care by cutting back on other care her son needed. So, for three years the teenager had insufficient or no respite care.

After complaining to the council, the mother asked the Ombudsman to investigate. That investigation also criticised the way the council handled the mother’s complaints.

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

“Councils have a duty to meet people’s assessed needs and cannot restrict the support they provide based purely on cost. In this case, a mother had no respite from solely caring for her teenage son because the council could not agree how much it would pay, despite a professional assessment deeming he most likely needed two-to-one care.

“I’m also concerned with the way the council handled the mother’s complaint. Councils can seek to get a better understanding and resolve a complaint early, but this should happen alongside the statutory process rather than replace it. Councils still need to follow the proper process and meet the timescales set out.

“I am pleased the council has finally agreed to all the recommendations I have made to remedy the situation for the family and ensure it learns from the things that have gone wrong.”

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 will apologise to the mother and pay her a total of £4,000 for the loss of service, distress and time and trouble she was put to.

It will also provide the mother with direct payments for respite care, at the same level as was provided before October 2019 and until this is no longer needed.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will review why it did not do more to work out how the teenager’s needs would be met between December 2019 and December 2020, while he was still under the council’s children’s services department.

It will also make improvements to its complaints handling processes and should brief staff to make clear it cannot seek to refuse or limit care choices based on cost, or through comparison with national or local averages.

Related Content : London Borough of Croydon (21 013 878)

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