A council wrongly reduced a disabled man’s personal budget by arbitrarily capping respite payments at the equivalent cost of residential care, despite this being an unsuitable way of meeting his needs, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found. As a result, his parents had to top up payments for carers so that the […]
Families are facing homelessness because of errors in the way local authorities calculate housing benefit entitlements.
Source: Ombudsman warns of the ‘human cost’ of housing benefit errors : Welfare Weekly
Council failed to correctly calculate the family’s housing benefit entitlement and wrongly told landlord they owed £8,000 in overpaid benefits.
Source: Young family with disabled child left homeless after benefits blunder : Welfare Weekly
*An autistic teenager was moved from her residential special school midway through her studies because of poor planning by Suffolk County Council, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The teenager had been attending the out-of-county independent school for five years when the council moved her in July 2016.
The council had intended to educate the girl at a local mainstream school following her move, but could not put in place the correct level of support as it was unaware of the provision available in the area. She was left without full-time education for five months – until another independent special school was found for her.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found significant faults with the council’s handling of the situation. It took 14 months to issue the teenager’s Education, Health and Care Plan, which had initially been issued without any assessment of her social care needs.
The council made the decision to end the girl’s placement at her school without any evidence her needs had changed, and failed to consider transition planning when she was in Year 9, and instead waited till she was in Year 11.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:
“It had taken a long time for this girl – who has significant needs – to settle at her school, and yet Suffolk County Council moved this girl despite the evidence supplied by the school and her educational psychologist.
“A lack of resources should never be the primary factor in deciding the best provision for a child with educational needs. This has been compounded by the council’s poor planning throughout the 14 months, and its admission it was unaware of the provision it had within its own boundaries.
“We welcome the steps the council has already taken to improve its services to children with special educational needs and hope this report, along with others from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, will help inform the changes the council needs to make to ensure other children are not affected in the same way.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the mother and daughter for the delay in arranging full-time education.
It will also pay the daughter £1,200 for the loss of one term of education, and a further £1,000 for the 14 months of uncertainty and distress she was faced with while the council was trying to find a suitable alternative placement.
It will pay the mother £1,000 for the disruption to her working arrangements caused by her daughter’s unplanned return from residential school and a further £500 for the time and trouble she spent pursuing the complaint.
The council has also agreed to pay the family £1,000 for the 14 months of uncertainty caused by its actions.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public.
The council has already conducted a review of the young people with EHC Plans whose placements were moved from out-of-county to in-county before their Plans were issued (from 1 January 2015) as a result of inspections by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. It has confirmed that those potentially affected were provided with the opportunity to exercise their right of appeal to the Tribunal.
The council has also agreed to review its policies and procedures to ensure EHC Plans are completed within the statutory time limits, needs are identified, provision is met and ensure decisions are based on the assessed needs of each young person;
It will also take relevant action to ensure it is aware of the provision available in its area and surrounding areas, revise its Local Offer to ensure it properly reflects the provision available in the local area and outside of the area; and take relevant action to ensure transition planning work has begun when a young person with an EHC Plan is in Year 9.
Article date: 28 February 2019
Councils and care providers are being encouraged to adopt a new statement which sets out best practice in receiving and dealing with comments, complaints and feedback about their services.
Launched by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and Healthwatch England, the new single complaints statement helps adult social care providers set out what service users, their families and representatives can expect when making a complaint.
Born out of the Quality Matters initiative, which aims to improve the quality and consistency of adult social care provision across the country, the statement offers a simple bulleted guide for each stage of the complaints process.
The Government recognised the value of the new single complaints statement in supporting a more consistent understanding of handling of complaints as part of its recent response to the CMA market study on care homes
Launched alongside the complaints statement is a second document created for service users to help them better understand the complaints process. An accessible ‘EasyRead’ version is also available.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said:
“I want to encourage all service providers – whether independent or council run – to adopt the single complaints statements into their own complaints policies, and highlight them in any information they give to service users, their families and representatives.
“We know the complaints system can be a real labyrinth for people to navigate, but we also know many councils and care providers have excellent procedures which help guide people through the system, and signpost them to us at the end.
Complaints about adult social care have increased since last year, according to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
Published this week (25 July), the Ombudsman’s Review of Local Government Complaints showed 2602 complaints were made about adult social care between 2017-18. This was slightly higher than the previous year when it received 2555 complaints from the public.
Overall, 17,452 complaints and enquiries about local government were sent to the ombudsman compared to 16,866 the year before.
This year, education and children’s services maintained its position as receiving the most enquiries, recording 3260 complaints; adult social care followed in second.
Uphold rate increases
Source: Annual report shows slight increase in complaints about adult social care : Community Care
My own comment to this article is
This is, however, just the tip of the ‘iceberg’ for there is much unrest or lack of trust in many, if not all of our Local Authorities, with many persons showing or more likely not showing their discontent.
In Sheffield, I am active in many groups, mainly, but not all, involved with learning disabilities and Autism and could guarantee that if I went to a meeting daily, I would come across at least one family at each meeting that were far from happy with Sheffield City Council, but to make a complaint or just query of a council action they would not do, but would voice their feelings in what they consider a ‘safe environment’.
They will not come forth for a number of reasons, they are unaware they can and if they do know, do not know how. for others it is a time consuming process and they are not willing or have the time to do so, In addition they may have complained previously and did not like how they were treated, but effectively the foremost reason, I believe is they are extremely scared of losing the small amount of care they have been granted already, also there will be some who feel their loved one or ones that have a need for care will be picked on for their family daring to complain.
This is also true of why complaints are not made frequently to numerous other organisations, many in health, including GPs and hospitals, care provider agencies, the list is endless.
By complaints not being made, the process for improving services is not being realised.
Complaints should not be feared by anyone, especially the person or persons who are not happy, but perhaps more so with the organisations, who may be reluctant to engage change.
Many profile cases have arisen over the years, the one I always quote, being Mid Staffs, between January 2005 and March 2009 at a Stafford hospital. Not only did the hospital not initially engage with the complaint positively they went out of their way to fight it. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/feb/06/mid-staffs-hospital-scandal-guide. The complainant not only lost her job, but her house, her family and had to leave the areas and I believe had to be given a new identity https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/oct/27/julie-bailey-mid-staffordshire-nhs-whistleblower.
Until there is openness, honesty and transparency and may I add accountability complaints will always never match the number of mistakes, wrong doings, etc that are taking place, but kept under the ‘carpet’.
Councils cannot set maximum budget levels when calculating the cost of people’s care, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.
The Ombudsman has issued the advice after an investigation found Wiltshire Council had a policy of placing people into bands, and paying in line with those banding levels, regardless of need. This is contrary to the Care Act.
The Ombudsman became aware of the council’s system after a woman, whose adult son had substantial and complex health problems and disabilities, had her support cut significantly.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council at fault for using an outdated matrix tool to calculate the amount of support offered to the family, and for reducing the support offered immediately, rather than as a staged reduction as the matrix tool said it should. It was also at fault for the way in which it reduced their funding for transport.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“Councils cannot put a cap on people’s budgets: the Care Act says eligible needs must be met, regardless of the cost.
“The reduction in support, and the haste by which those changes were introduced, has had a significant impact on the mother.
“Having to care for both her husband and her son has left this woman exhausted. She said she has been treated by her doctor and reported being frequently distressed, tearful and unsettled by the changes.
“I am pleased the council has accepted the formula it used to calculate people’s budgets was not in accordance with current guidance and has now agreed to stop using it.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is reminding councils across England they must give families accurate information when placing relatives in care homes, following an investigation into a complaint against Lincolnshire County Council.
The investigation found a family was not told about the possibilities available to them when their father was placed in a care home as an emergency. They were left with no option but to pay a ‘top-up’ fee, when the council should have offered them the choice of a home which did not require the additional amount. When they struggled to pay the fees, their father was threatened with eviction.
During the investigation, the Ombudsman also found the council had unclear information about care home fees on its website. It has asked the council to review its procedures to avoid similar problems happening again.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
The impact of an individual complaint in improving care services for others is being highlighted in a new report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman’s Review of Adult Social Care Complaints reveals councils and care providers implemented more than 1,300 recommendations to put things right for people in 2016/17.
As well as putting things right for an individual, the Ombudsman makes recommendations to improve services for others by changing policies and procedures, training staff, or recommending a service be provided.
Within the Ombudsman’s 1,318 recommendations, councils and care providers made nearly 180 procedural changes and committed to train staff on nearly 50 occasions.
In some cases the result of a single investigation leads to the Ombudsman looking at injustices caused to people who haven’t complained. Examples of this over the past year include one person’s complaint about the way a council charged for care leading to more than 60 people, who had been similarly affected, receiving refunds.
In another case a couple complained about their council’s blanket policy to reduce the level of care it provided, and nearly 70 other families had their care reviewed following the Ombudsman’s investigation.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“I want to highlight the power that one person speaking up can have in changing services for the better for everyone.
“Our recommendations not only put things right for individuals, but aim to help councils and care providers avoid the same problems affecting others. Where we think a fault was caused by a procedural or policy issue, we recommend ways to review and change those practices.”
The report also welcomes the increase in complaints the Ombudsman has received about independent care providers. This reflects the growing importance the sector is placing on making the complaints process more visible and informing people of their rights to come to the Ombudsman.
Mr King also encouraged those organisations – both public and independently owned – where complaints were taken on board, and analysed, at the most senior level.
“Strong leadership in the sector is essential to foster a true learning culture from complaints. Good leaders will empower their staff to respond quickly and with confidence to customer concerns, and ensure the learning from complaints is actively owned at a cabinet or board level.
“When things do go wrong, it is those organisations with such strong leadership which are best placed to gain from the outcome of our investigations.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said:
“In a sector being squeezed in all directions, it is heartening to see providers being praised for making the role of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman better known and take a lead in learning from complaints, particularly in addressing self-funder complaints.
“It is right and proper that the sector works with the Ombudsman to create a more robust system where there is more confidence in care providers.”
Andrea Sutcliffe, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, said:
“This report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman reinforces how important it is for people, their families and carers, to experience good, safe care that is responsive to their individual needs.
“CQC’s own State of Care report highlights the critical role strong leadership has in delivering high quality care and bringing about improvement. Being open to feedback, acting appropriately on people’s complaints and actively seeking out ways to put things right are essential elements of this.
“I encourage providers to use this report to reflect on how they listen and learn from people’s experiences, concerns and complaints. If all services did this then the quality of care would be better for everyone which is what we all want to see.”
Source : Ombudsman highlights the power of complaints to improve social care : Care Industry News
The CQC has joined with a number of partners to launch the ‘Quality matters’ commitment to help drive improvements in adult social care.