Council trialled assistive tech solution without informing family, ombudsman finds

Mr and Mrs X complained it was “not safe” for the council to remove their sister’s overnight care and use new solutions

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Photo: Kantver/Fotolia

A council was at fault for failing to involve a family in its decision to trial an assistive technology solution for their sister, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report has found.

Bradford council removed Miss Y’s night-time care and pursued alternative solutions without informing her family, who complained the home would no longer be a “safe environment”.

Although the council attempted to contact the service user’s family members, the ombudsman said it should have pursued attempts to get in touch with her next of kin.

Alternative solution

Miss Y, the sister of Mr and Mrs X, had lived in a council funded property for 22 years. She had a learning disability and epilepsy, and was supported by carers during the day and night.

As the only resident living in the property, Bradford council said it was not “financially viable” for Miss Y to remain there. This was despite the fact that a second resident was due to move in.

The council, and the care provider running the home, considered an option to remove Miss Y’s overnight carer in which it would trial an assistive technology solution.

It planned to fit sensors to her bed, doors and windows to monitor her movements. There would also be support available to Miss Y at the home next door, which had an overnight carer.

It was felt Miss Y lacked the capacity to understand “the full implications of being left alone at night”, so the council completed a mental capacity assessment. It then made a best interests decision but failed to involve family members and did not provide Miss Y with an advocate during this process.

The council proceeded with the trial and fitted the assistive technology. It provided Miss Y with a mobile phone with which she could call carers in the property next door if she needed assistance.

No involvement

Mr and Mrs X were informed about the changes to Miss Y’s support. However, when they asked how soon the trial arrangements would start they were told they had “already been in place for 10 nights”.

Mr and Mrs X challenged this decision but were told if the new technology was not fitted, Miss Y would have to move out of the home.

Both siblings felt their sister was “not safe” as she could “open the door to strangers” and would get up in the night and need reassurance. They did not feel she would understand how to operate a mobile phone either.

The care provider agreed that an overnight carer would be reinstated until the second resident moved in the following month. But Mr and Mrs X were unhappy with this decision and complained to Bradford council.

Responding to the complaint, the council explained it had completed a mental capacity assessment and made a best interests decision. It decided the risks of removing the overnight carer were acceptable and explained that the technology would allow Miss Y to remain in the property.

Failure to make contact

The ombudsman found the council was correct in conducting a mental capacity assessment and making a best interests assessment when evaluating Miss Y’s night-time care.

It also acknowledged the council’s proposal to use assistive technology to increase the service user’s independence would have allowed Miss Y to remain in the property.

However, the ombudsman stated these decisions were “taken with no involvement from her family”. Although it said the council enquired about next of kin details, which were not provided, Bradford council should have pursued with finding a next of kin.

It also explained the council should have provided Miss Y with an advocate to support her in the absence of a family member.

The ombudsman commented on the assistive technology trial, saying “there were no issues with Miss Y’s care” and the faults “had not caused Miss X an injustice”.

Yet it did state the council’s failure to involve Mr and Mrs X in the decision-making process had caused them caused “distress and worry” due to the possibility of Miss Y’s removal.

Resolutions

Bradford council has agreed to apologise to Mr and Mrs X and pay them £150 for the distress caused by its failure to keep them informed of changes to their sister’s care.

It has also ensured the relatives, or an advocate, would be involved in any future decisions about her care and support, including any changes made to her night-time care.

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