Care planning failings left parents without support for disabled son

Bromley council failed to ensure a smooth transition from children's services to adult social care for the family, the ombudsman found

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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.

‘No arrangements’

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.

‘Make amends’

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.”


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4 Responses to Care planning failings left parents without support for disabled son

  1. Ruth Cartwright March 3, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    The local authority seem to have been caught bang to rights here trying to cut a care package to save money and with little consideration of the actual assessed needs of the person. While the cuts Councils are facing are terrible, this sort of behaviour just covers up the shortage of resources and doesn’t help argue the case for more funding from central Government. One wonders how many other cases there have been in Bromley and elsewhere where such arbitrary and unexplained decisions have been made but service users have not had family to support them and argue their cases.

  2. VIOLET March 3, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

    Unfortunately this happens all the time. Just today I dealt with a very similar case on duty. Case has not been allocated for an assessment. Much more needs to be done for transition to Adulthood. Failings everywhere. Hope a better and smooth response could be developed across adult social, health and education. I am speaking as a transition social worker before and after the Care Act Reform.

  3. Pete Feldon March 7, 2017 at 11:33 am #

    It’s a shame that the Ombudsman didn’t repeat what was said about panels in the decision in August 2016 in relation to the case brought against Brighton and Hove, as follows.

    • The statutory guidance to the Act says local authorities should refrain from “using panels that seek to amend planning decisions, micro-manage the planning process or are in place purely for financial reasons” (10.85).

    • “Delivering Care and Support Planning; supporting implementation of the Care Act 2014” was commissioned by the Department of Health in partnership with the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. The report says: The use of panels for every care and support plan is “overly bureaucratic and complex”.

    • Councils should aim for panels to be used as an exception, “if at all”.

    The Ombudsman could have pointed out that there is a maximum number of 168 days per year for respite inherent in the statutory guidance, where this is purchased through a direct payment. The formula is that “each stay is less than 4 weeks and there is an interim period of at least 4 weeks between 2 or more stays which added together exceed 4 weeks” (paragraph 12.36). There has to be at least four weeks between each short stay of a maximum of four weeks. A cycle of four weeks in respite care and four weeks at home, can be repeated six times in a year i.e. 28 days multiplied by 6 is 168 days.

  4. Nadia Phillips March 12, 2017 at 8:15 pm #

    This situation is pretty commonplace for Bromley Children’s Services, who have been rated Inadequate in every category in latest Ofsted Report. After Terry Parkin (Director of CS) left in April 2015 – Bromley LA decided not to appoint new Director of CS, as a money saving exercise. To only did this leave those most vulnerable; denied of vital services and support, but any complaints to Bromley LA – were not subject to statutory guidance and timescales – instead ‘complainants’ were victimised and any calls to Bromley LA to try and chase up, were treated with contempt and no action followed any of the concerns raised. They had been without a Director of CS for over a year and only employed one, when ordered to do so by Ofsted – following Inadequate inspection. Furthermore, unlike many LA’s struggling with cuts to funding/resources, this does not apply to Bromley CS; as Ofsted Report is very clear in stating that Bromley LA deficit I. Funding resources, had been the result of their own 1) mismanagement of funds and 2) poor allocation of total budget (internally); with a huge deficit in required allocation of budget to Children’s Services.
    They totally lack, any professional standards of service and working practice is shambolic – they are totally committed to covering one another’s backs , rather than practice good working ethics and standards. Not fit for purpose – they are now shuffling staff around and numerous staff departures taking place – in a bid to deflect ‘responsibility & accountability’ as even if a social worker/line manager, moves to another Dept within the LA; they leave any accountability behind.
    A very devious and unprofessional practice????