Bromley council will pay out more than a thousand pounds to the parents of a disabled teenager after care planning failings left them without respite support for five months.
A local government ombudsman investigation found the couple were left to cope alone after the council failed to make arrangements to support their son’s transition from children’s to adults’ services when he turned 18.
Children’s services had been providing a care package of six nights a month at a respite centre and 18 days a year at a holiday club, but this stopped after the boy turned 18.
Adults’ services took five months to agree a respite package. The council’s funding panel offered 28 days of respite support a year, despite a social worker assessing the family as needing 72 days a year. The panel gave no reason for its decision.
The ombudsman found fault in the way the council delayed assessing the family’s needs and delayed agreeing the level of support it would offer.
The council accepted the findings and agreed to pay the family for the cost of missed respite and support, and £1,000 in recognition of the stress and anxiety caused.
The family contacted the council in July 2015, after becoming concerned that they had not heard about the transition process. They said they wanted their son to remain at home, but were struggling to cope and might have to consider a residential placement.
An assessment carried out in September 2015 recommended reducing the personal budget the young man used to pay for respite care. However, the ombudsman found there was no indication his needs had changed at this point and there was no explanation for the council’s move.
The council’s disabled children’s team stopped its support for the young man in October 2015 after his eighteenth birthday. At this time, no arrangements were in place for any respite or support from adult care services.
Two months later, a social worker from the transitions team completed a report for the council’s funding panel. He recommended 72 days of respite a year was required, and said the council’s “maximum” 28 days a year would be insufficient and leave the family having to consider their son moving into residential care.
‘No reason for decision’
The funding panel, which met weekly, did not consider the request until February 2016. It agreed to 28 days respite only, but did not give a reason for this decision, the investigation found.
The ombudsman said this raised “significant questions” about the way the council made decisions about the level of respite it will provide.
“This is of particular concern given the social worker’s reference in the report to panel to the council’s “maximum” of 28 days respite per year,” the report said.
“The provision of respite should be based on a service user’s assessed needs, and to impose a blanket maximum level would clearly be inappropriate.”
The investigation also found that the respite centre had asked for one-to-one support to accommodate the young man during his first visits, but this was not actioned until March 2016, two months after the request was received.
“As the funding panel sits once a week, we consider this matter could have been resolved much sooner,” the ombudsman’s report said.
he panel only agreed to fund the one-to-one support for two visits and told the social worker the matter would have to be referred back should more support be required.
In May 2016, the young man’s mother said she did not want him to attend the respite centre anymore because she felt it was unsafe without any one-to-one support. She asked the council to set up direct payments so the family could make their own arrangements for overnight respite.
In addition to the financial compensation, the ombudsman said the council should reassess the family’s needs and review its transitions policy and procedures.
A Bromley council spokesperson said: “We fully accept that the transition from children’s services to adults in this case did not go as smoothly as we would have liked and that this resulted in a delay in putting the right support in place.
“We cooperated fully with the investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman and agreed with the recommendations made. We were keen to put things right as quickly as possible and hope that the way in which we have resolved this will make amends and enable the young person to continue to receive the support they need to live a fulfilling life.”