London council fails to support vulnerable mother properly
London Borough of Ealing did not carry out adequate assessments of the support a disabled mother needed when her young son moved from nursery to school, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The mother, who has physical and mental health needs, takes strong medication and is in chronic pain, lives with her young son. She has no family or friends in the area to help with her fluctuating needs in an emergency.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council was at fault for failing to complete care assessments in a timely manner and for not putting in place proper contingency plans for the mother’s fluctuating needs.
The investigation also found fault with the council for not completing annual care reviews, and for failing to give the mother the correct personal budget, so she could not pay for a child minder to take her son to school. It was also at fault for not taking all reasonable steps to reach agreement with the mother about how to meet her eligible needs.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, yesterday said:
“The problems in this case stemmed from the council not assessing properly whether the mother’s needs had changed when her son started school. It was entirely predictable that they would do, and the council should have foreseen this.
“There is doubt over whether the mother’s – and her young son’s – needs have been met properly over the period, and whether the debts she has accrued have been exacerbated by the situation.
“I welcome the commitment the council has since made to implement the remedies I have recommended.”
The council provided a nursery place for her son, supported by a care agency to get him there, which he often attended till 6pm. However, the council did not reassess the family when the boy moved to primary school, so there was no respite after school finished at 3pm. The mother said the council did not consider her needs fluctuated, and the care package she received did not take into account any contingencies for an emergency.
The care agency said it could not guarantee it could get the son to school on time, so the mother investigated other arrangements. She told the council a child-minder had agreed to take the boy to school and look after him afterwards. The council agreed she could use her direct payments to fund this.
However, the council did not put enough money into her account to cover both the child minder’s fees and those of the care agency which looked after her needs. This contributed to a debt to the agency of around £17,000.
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 honour the agreement to pay transport and assistance to get the son to school.
The council should pay the difference between the amount paid into the mother’s direct payment account for this element of the support package and the amount she paid out. The council has calculated this to be nearly £12,000 and will be paid to the care agency to settle part of her debt.
The Ombudsman has also asked the council to apologise to the mother for its failure to plan and provide assistance for contingencies and pay her £2,000 for her distress, time and trouble and uncertainty.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public.
In this case, the council has agreed to review the collaborative working between adults and children’s social services and implement any identified improvements.
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