A registered blind mother with severe epilepsy went without parenting support for 13 months because of a council’s unjustified belief that she was receiving sufficient informal care to meet her needs, a Local Government Ombudsman report has found.
The 30-year-old woman, who has two young children, was caused “unjustified uncertainty, stress and anxiety” because of Southwark Council’s failure to put in place a care package in reasonable time, which was also caused by “frequent delays in the provision of assessments and care plans”.
Southwark Council has agreed to pay out £13,100 as compensation to the woman for additional expenses she incurred because services were not provided from July 2008-August 2009 and the “distress and anxiety” caused by other failings.
The ombudsman found that a visual impairment social worker had assessed her as eligible for 21 hours’ support in July 2008 and a care plan was drawn up to reflect this. But this was not implemented because a subsequent assessment by children’s services found that the woman’s needs were not as significant as first thought and that she had informal support to meet them from friends, a conclusion not challenged by adults’ services despite their doubts.
However, the ombudsman, Jane Martin, said: “The council has not presented any evidence that its misgivings about the amount of support the complainant was receiving were justified, nor did it take adequate steps to inform the complainant of its intention to withhold services. And when it concluded that the complainant had informal assistance, the council did not seek to ascertain the level of quality of that care or whether the carer was happy to sustain her role.”
Martin also found that no evidence that adults’ or children’s services had provided the woman with a written assessment, providing her with no opportunity to challenge the decision to withhold services.
She also slammed the council for failing to put in place a night carer before the woman had a serious night seizure in October 2009, despite the fact that the woman had requested it and her serious epilepsy, which should have prompted the council to examine the need for night support.
However, Martin praised the council’s actions in responding to the case, both in agreeing to the proposed financial remedy for the woman and improving its practices. For instance, it is now referring all cases that cut across children’s and adults’ services to a joint resource panel, both at the point of assessment and its conclusion, and conducted an audit of joint cases in January 2012.
Catherine McDonald, cabinet member for health and adult social care at Southwark Council, said: “This happened in 2009. The ombudsman welcomes Southwark Council’s positive response to her findings and the council has already implemented procedural improvements to address difficulties highlighted in this investigation.”
Councils rapped over service failures for disabled girl