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Ombudsman investigation finds young Sheffield woman let down by city council

A vulnerable young Sheffield woman was told by the city council during its investigation into the abuse she suffered that she could have stopped it sooner if she had spoken up.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was asked to investigate after the woman and her family felt Sheffield City Council’s own inquiry into her complaint had not done enough to acknowledge the problems the young woman had faced since finding she had been abused.

Because of the impact on her mental health, the young woman has been unable to attend college, yet the council did not put in place alternative education to ensure she maintained her studies.

The young woman, who has epilepsy and visual impairments, had been provided with a care worker by the city council and the local NHS clinical commissioning group to help meet her needs and manage her seizures.

In 2017, she became increasingly withdrawn until she told her mother her care worker had been disclosing intimate and confidential details about other service users to her and unloading their personal problems. The woman felt angry and disrespected and was concerned the care worker was also breaching her own confidentiality.

The family urged the council to investigate, but it delayed completing its safeguarding investigation into the actions of the care provider. During the investigation, the council told the woman she could have stopped the abuse had she spoken up sooner.

When the family asked for different care workers, the council wrongly told them the only other option involved them paying a 'top-up’ fee.

The woman and her mother also complained that her care plans were not updated properly, and at times were ‘neglectful, dangerously uninformed and posed a danger’ to her. The young woman’s Education Health and Care Plan was also not updated properly, and she was out of education for a significant period until March 2021.

The council’s own investigations acknowledged the issues the family faced, that there were significant gaps in the council’s service, and it has made a number of changes to the way it works with young adults.

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

“The council has failed this vulnerable young woman many times over during an extended period, at a time when she was most at need of support and even sought to lay some of the blame for the abuse continuing on her. This has had a significant impact on her mental health and delayed her natural progression into adulthood and further education.

“It is to its credit that the council has acknowledged the significant problems faced by this young woman and her mother, and accepted my recommendations. I hope the changes it has already pledged to make, and the learning it will take away from this case, will ensure young people moving between Children’s and Adult Services will not be put at such a significant disadvantage 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 refund the £605 which the woman wrongly paid towards her care, plus interest. It will also pay the woman and her mother £1,500 each to recognise their distress and time and trouble in trying to get the council to put things right over a number of years.

The council will also pay the woman £500 for every month where the council failed to provide her with education from September 2017 until the current provision was put in place. It will consider any discretion it has to provide educational support to her beyond the age of 25.

Related Content: Sheffield City Council (20 012 533)

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