Watchdog accuses Birmingham of putting vulnerable people at risk

Up to 200 people in Birmingham with severe learning difficulties could be at risk of abuse because the council has failed to keep track of them, a council watchdog claimed last week.

Birmingham Council’s social care scrutiny committee said service users should be considered at risk in light of the Cornwall abuse case (see What went wrong in Cornwall).

The scrutiny committee raised concerns that the people in services provided by primary care trusts were “missing” from Birmingham Council’s records and could be living in unregistered care homes.

Lesley Heale, the council’s service director for learning difficulties, told the committee: “A number of service users haven’t been assessed because we don’t know who these people are.

“If there was close partnership working between ourselves and the PCTs and if all the homes were registered, we would have known.”

But in a written statement in response to the report, Bill Robertson, Birmingham Council’s service director for adult commissioning, denied that people were missing from the council’s records.

He said that either health or social care knew about the 200 people identified by the watchdog. “These people are receiving care which is regularly monitored or inspected to ensure that it is safe and of a high quality,” he said.

“They have, however, not been transferred to our joint records.”

Robertson claimed the scrutiny committee report was “missing some key information” and said it had led to “an unfortunate misunderstanding”.

He said all the key partners in learning difficulties services, including East and South Birmingham primary care trusts, had “reaffirmed their commitment to joint working”.

A Birmingham Council spokesperson said no one was available to speak directly to Community Care.

What went wrong in Cornwall

● Services for people with learning difficulties were not transferred to social services following the closure of long-stay hospitals.
● Social services had little involvement in care provided by Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust.
● Learning difficulties services at the trust were poorly resourced and lacked qualified

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