National Ombudsmen
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Ombudsman criticises Birmingham City Council for delay over disabled man's needs

The Council delayed for over two years in providing for a disabled man’s assessed needs, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex, which meant he did not get the services he should have had, and which the Council had a statutory duty to provide.

The Ombudsman is pleased that the Council has agreed to her recommendations and paid the man £52,513, being the value of the payments and services he should have received, as well as paying £500 to his mother and sister in recognition of their efforts in trying to get adequate services provided.

The Ombudsman said: “During this period Mr N’s mother lived in the fear that her son would be taken away from their home and moved into residential care. Mr N fell and broke his nose and his mother was injured providing him with care the Council later accepted it should have arranged and funded.”

Mr N is 58 years old and has a severe learning disability, epilepsy and atypical autism. He also has poor vision and limited balance, co-ordination and dexterity. His epilepsy means Mr N has seizures of varying severity. He needs help with daily living including washing, dressing, using the toilet, eating and keeping safe.

Mr N and his family want him to remain living at home with his 83-year-old mother. They are close, and his mother provides over 100 hours of care each week. Mr N’s sister helps with his personal care needs, shopping, health appointments and takes him on holiday.

Mr N attends a day centre, arranged and paid for by the Council. He also gets funding from the Independent Living Fund (ILF) that he uses for help with his personal care, practical tasks, and support with leisure.

An assessor from the ILF decided that Mr N needed more help and asked the Council to reassess him. She indicated the ILF would increase its funding by 25% (£104.25 a week) if the Council increased its funding by £35 a week.

The Council delayed for a year before beginning to reassess Mr N. It was not until 20 months after the ILF assessor’s recommendation that a report on Mr N was made to an internal Council funding panel. The report described Mr N’s needs, the risks of not increasing his care, the importance of making a decision; that he was using ‘assistive technology’ and had no interest in moving to ‘supported living’. Despite this, the Panel deferred a decision and asked the social worker to explore supported living and ‘assistive technology’ for Mr N.

It took two years and four months from the ILF assessor’s recommendations for the support plan produced by the social worker for Mr N to be fully funded.

The Ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and the Council has agreed to:

  • pay Mr N £52,513 for lost payments and services (of which £15,608 relates to lost ILF payments), and
  • pay £500 to Mr N’s mother and sister in recognition of the time and inconvenience they had in trying to get adequate services for Mr N.

A voluntary organisation, Advocacy Matters, supported Mr N and his family by making many telephone calls and sending many emails to the Council. Without Advocacy Matters and the resolve of Mr N’s family, the complaint would not have reached the Ombudsman and the injustice to Mr N would not have been remedied.

The right response: delivering effective emergency out of hours customer support