SCR: Murdered care leaver wrongly denied adult care assessment

Case review also exposes Mental Capacity Act knowledge gap among children's social workers.

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A vulnerable care leaver was wrongly denied a community care assessment, leaving him without social care support in the 18 months before his murder, because his IQ was deemed too high.

That was one of the conclusions from a serious case review into the murder of Martin Hyde, who was killed in November 2009, aged 22, following months of violence at the hands of his eventual murderers and others.

The SCR was commissioned by Stockport Safeguarding Adults Board, which concluded from it that the murder could not have been predicted nor prevented. But the review exposed multiple failings by agencies in relation to Hyde, who had seven care placements from the ages of nine to 15, followed by a young adulthood that involved homelessness, debt, offending, substance misuse and victimisation.

Disadvantaged by proliferation of labels

The SCR found Hyde had been disadvantaged by the multiplicity of labels he was given by different agencies during his young adulthood, including ‘moderate learning difficulties’ (children’s services), ‘mental health issues’, ‘learning disabilities’ (the police) and “low spectrum autism” (Independent Options, a disability charity he had been referred to).

It was “remarkable that there was apparently no attempt” to decide whether he had a learning disability or autism, it found, and the proliferation of labels “fed into the belief that [Hyde] could and should attend to his own protection”.

Wrongly denied community care assessment

Hyde received social work support from Stockport children’s services until he turned 21, in 2008; but, in June 2007, he was deemed ineligible for support from adult social care because an IQ assessment by a clinical psychologist found he had a “dull, normal intelligence”, not a learning disability.

However, the SCR pointed out that his eligibility could only have been determined by a community care assessment, which he never received despite increasing evidence of his vulnerability after he turned 21, particularly to the police.

“It was wrong to assume that [Hyde’s] ineligibility was absolute and could not be reviewed,” it said. “[He] should have had a community care assessment at 21 years and on other occasions i.e. had there been an alert to adult safeguarding.”

The SCR recommended an end to the practice of IQ testing people believed to have learning disabilities to establish their eligibility for adult social care. In response Stockport Council disability service has agreed that IQ tests would not be used as the sole criterion for determining eligibility, though they would remain part of the assessment process.

Mental Capacity Act knowledge gap

The SCR also exposed a knowledge gap regarding the Mental Capacity Act 2005 among children’s services staff. Hyde never received a mental capacity assessment and there was an “across-the-board” assumption among agencies that he possessed capacity to make all relevant decisions.

This was despite the fact that he used alcohol or cannabis, potentially affecting the functioning of his brain or mind, and made a number of decisions that made him vulnerable to abuse or harm. These included rejecting housing tenancies after seeking accommodation, ignoring advice from his GP to access counselling and offending behaviour.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 states that professionals should presume that people possess capacity to make decisions and not treat unwise decisions as evidence of a lack of capacity.

However, the SCR concluded that it was “questionable” whether agencies’ assumption of capacity was reasonable, adding: “The presumption of capacity does not exempt authorities and services from undertaking robust assessments where a person’s apparent decision is manifestly contrary to his wellbeing.”

It recommended that Stockport Safeguarding Children Board promote training in assessing mental capacity and decision-making among children’s services staff; this has been accepted, with Mental Capacity Act training extended to children’s social workers.

About the murder

In May 2010, James Dellaway, then 24, and Jason Hughes, then 28, were sentenced to life after pleading guilty to Hyde’s murder at Manchester Crown Court. Hyde’s former girlfriend, Chelsea Platt, then 18, Lindsay Dunn, then 20, and Peter Mayne, then 18, were also jailed after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm.

Practice advice

Top ten resources on the Mental Capacity Act and self-neglect 

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