Council pays out £50,000 for not meeting disabled man’s needs

Man waited two years to have care package increased because of council delays in assigning a social worker and providing services he was assessed as needing.

The Local Government Ombudsman strongly criticised the council (Credit: Run Photo: Getty Images)

A disabled man waited for two years for additional care he had been assessed as needing because of council delays in assigning him a social worker and in then acting on the practitioner’s assessment.

Birmingham Council has agreed to pay out £52,513 to the man, Mr N, on the recommendation of the Local Government Ombudsman, to reflect lost payments and services that he went without because of its failings in the case.

Mr N, who is 58, has a severe learning disability, epilepsy and autism, and needs help with tasks including washing, dressing, using the toilet and keeping safe; he lives with his 83-year-old mother who provides him with over 100 hours of care each week.

The council’s failings date back to October 2009, when Mr N was receiving 30 hours’ worth of payments from the Independent Living Fund, amounting to £351 a week, and was being funded by the council to attend a day centre five days a week at a cost of £285 a week. 

In a scheduled ILF review, attended by a council social worker, an assessor recommended that the fund increase his funding to 37.5 hours and the council reassess him because he clearly needed more help, particularly at night, to enable Mr N and his mother to continue living at home together.

No social worker allocated

The ILF wrote to the council in the same month to say that it could only increase its funding for Mr N if the council increased its weekly funding to £320, under its then funding rules. However, the council did not allocate a social worker to reassess Mr N until October 2010, by which time he was no longer eligible for increased ILF funding as in June 2010 it closed to new clients and increased awards to existing clients.

During the intervening 12 months, Mr N’s advocate, Ms D, and his sister said they made regular calls to the council’s duty social work team to chase progress; the council said it had records of three such contacts, in January, September and October 2010.

The council’s social worker produced a support plan recommending an increase in his care package in November 2010. However, there was then a further delay as he underwent an assessment for continuing healthcare and the council negotiated with the NHS over responsibility for funding his care package.

Funding panel defers decision

The case then went to a council panel in June 2011 where the social worker argued for increased funding, including 10 hours a week of night-time support. Though the social worker’s report said Mr N did not want to move into supported living and was already using assistive technology, the panel deferred a decision on funding and asked the social worker to explore options such as supported living and assistive technology with him.

In September 2011, the panel agreed to temporarily increase his funding but it was not until February 2012 that he received the level of funding set out in the November 2010 support plan. In the intervening period, Mr N’s mother had a fall while caring for him and went into hospital with an injured back.

“We apologise for the delay in this case,” said a council spokesperson. “[We] are committed to improving services and we are determined to learn from this case so that it is not repeated.

“There are several pilot initiatives taking place within to look at the best way of providing effective and responsive social work service to adults and we have already seen a reduction in response times for assessments and reassessments. We have also reviewed our process for prioritising and responding to requests in situations where a person has complex needs.”

Mithran Samuel is Community Care’s adults’ editor

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