Homelessness is now a serious risk for working families with stable jobs who cannot find somewhere affordable to live after being evicted by private-sector landlords seeking higher rents, the local government ombudsman has warned.
Michael King said nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and council workers were among those assisted by his office after being made homeless and placed in often squalid and unsafe temporary accommodation by local authorities.
“People are coming to us not because they have a ‘life crisis’ or a drug and alcohol problem, but because they are losing what they thought was a stable private-sector tenancy, being evicted and then being priced out of the [rental] market,” he said.
King said the common perception that homelessness was about people with chaotic lives who slept rough no longer held true. “Increasingly, [homeless people] are normal families who would not have expected to be in this situation,” he said.
A county court has delivered a devastating judgment against the Local Government Ombudsman, after it discriminated against a disabled woman by failing to provide the reasonable adjustments she needed to lodge a complaint against a local authority. The ombudsman has been ordered to pay £12,500 in damages to Jeanine Blamires to compensate her for the ordeal, following breaches of both the Equality Act and the Data Protection Act by the ombudsman. Although the judgment is only in draft form, its conclusions are unlikely to be altered. District judge Joanna Geddes even awarded aggravated damages against the ombudsman over the breach of the Equality Act, because she said it had defended the case in a way that “added to the injury, frustration and distress” felt by Blamires, which had “exacerbated” the symptoms of her long-term health conditions. She also awarded aggravated damages for the Data Protection Act breach, because of the ombudsman’s “continued denial” that it had broken the law.
Working within Social Services is not easy for Social Workers are subject to their own management demands while endeavouring to do what is best for the vulnerable person. In doing so they need to obtain all relevant facts, which they need to understand and then decide the best course of action.
Within these their judgments may be clouded by their own personal views and opinions and this should be recognised by the respective managements within social services. Any decision made should be monitored to ensure that best interest was indeed followed. In this instance was any risk assessment produced and if it was, was it shared with Aimee’s aunt an uncle.
The secrecy which social services and especially the Family Court appear to insist upon needs to be looked at, for this could also not be in the best interest of those who are vulnerable.
All areas need to be more open, honest and transparent and then this could create an atmosphere where abuse is minimised.
Abuse is not only just related to care of the individual vulnerable person, but also the power of the authorities which they proceed to use over families. These authorities need to listen and understand situations more and then act accordingly and not proceed on a judgmental basis on unproven assumptions..
The Local Government Ombudsman has seen a 25 per cent rise in complaints about the home care received by some of the most vulnerable people in England over the past year.
The statistic is just one of the findings included in the LGO’s Review of Adult Social Care Complaints 2015/16, which is issued today.
Complaints about home care received by the Ombudsman include care workers being late for or missing appointments, not staying long enough and not doing what they should – including not treating people with the dignity they deserve.
Local government ombudsman saw cases concerning assessment and care planning rise more than a third last year
More people are complaining to the local government ombudsman about the quality of social care assessments and care planning, the watchdog’s annual review shows.
The ombudsman service, which acts as a last resort for cases which have not been resolved locally, received 576 complaints about assessment and care planning in 2014-15 – an increase of more than a third on the previous year. The proportion upheld rose from 51% to 57%.
The most common complaints were about delays to care assessments and reviews, or concerns that the views of people or their families were not taken into account.
The figures cover the 12-months leading up the Care Act’s introduction in April 2015. The act gives local authorities a legal duty to involve people in the assessment and care planning process.
Overall complaints up 18%
The ombudsman received 2,803 complaints across all adult social care in 2014-15, up 18% from the previous year. These included 319 complaints about care arranged privately with independent providers and 2,484 complaints about local authorities or care commissioned by them.
More complaints were received about assessment and care planning than the other care areas where:
497 complaints concerned residential care, up 25% on the previous year. Commonly about medication errors, inaccurate records or poor communication, the proportion upheld rose from 53% to 58%.
297 complaints were about home care services, an increase of 60% on 2013-14. Common complaints were about home visits being cancelled or too short or care being inadequate.
262 complaints related to charging for care. The ombudsman said these complaints had not increased significantly but the proportion upheld rose from 62% to 67%.
258 complaints concerned safeguarding, nearly a third more than the previous year. Common complaints concerned delays in the safeguarding process and disagreements over the conclusions of investigations. The proportion upheld rose from 42% to 51%.
Local complaint procedures ‘not working properly’
The report acknowledges complaint numbers are small compared to the overall size of the social care sector, where around 1.3 million people get support. However, it also warns low numbers partly reflect poor awareness of the complaints system among people using services.
Dr Jane Martin, the local government ombudsman said the rise in complaints could be a sign people were more confident in voicing concerns.
“But, as the final stage of the process, the enquiries we receive indicate a local complaint procedure not working as it should and missed opportunities to have put things right first time around.”
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, the Local Government’s Association’s spokesperson for community wellbeing, said councils would work hard to ensure people could raise issues locally.
“However, we are concerned that despite care workers best efforts, complaints could become more frequent as the combined pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and extra costs mean that councils will have less money for essential social care services, such as help with washing, dressing, or getting out and about,” she said.
“It is vital for our elderly and disabled population that the Government adequately funds social care in the Spending Review to ensure we are able to provide a level of care fit for the 21st century.” ………..’
The council claimed the complaint made by the man’s mother to the ombudsman should have been made to Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The mental health trust had been contracted by Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, on the council’s behalf, to assess and meet the eligible needs of adults with Asperger’s syndrome in the area.
But the ombudsman reminded the council it could not delegate its duty to assess and meet people’s eligible social care needs, even if had delegated the delivery of that function to a third party.
The young man had Asperger’s syndrome and hearing difficulties, and used the direct payments to access community facilities and maintain a social life.
The trust stopped his payments in December 2013 after those carrying out the assessment wrongly believed he would be starting an apprenticeship and thus no longer met the eligibility criteria for social care. This meant that for 14 months, the young man’s only contact with the outside world was through his mother and stepfather. He only started receiving payments again in March 2015, after a reassessment of his needs in January 2015 found him eligible for social care.
Lack of evidence
The ombudsman found that there was no evidence of how the trust reviewed the man’s needs in 2013, no written record of discussions with him or his mother and no evidence of how the decision that he no longer met eligibility criteria was made.
She concluded that there was a fault in the way that the trust carried out the review and stopped his care package and, as the trust was carrying out these functions on the council’s behalf, this was a fault on the part of the council.
She also said that the council was at fault for failing to ensure that the trust kept full records for justifying its decisions.
Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said this should serve as a reminder to all councils that they remained ultimately accountable for the delivery of statutory functions carried out on their behalf by third parties.
She said: “Councils are well within their rights to get best value for money from care contracts. However, councils remain responsible for the way those services are provided, including dealing with any complaints.”
Martin added that changing models of service delivery had confused the matter of who was accountable for a local service, both for the public and for local authorities.
She clarified that accountability for council functions remained with local authorities when outsourced, irrespective of whether the provider was a private company, third sector organisation or another publicly-funded body.
Somerset council has agreed to accept the ombudman’s recommendations, which include paying the man almost £6,000, the equivalent of the sum he would have received in direct payments from December 2013 to January 2015. It will also pay the man’s mother £500 for the stress and anxiety of having to meet her son’s needs during the period without direct payments.
The council has also agreed to review how it monitors its contracts with third parties to make sure full records of all care reviews and recommendations are kept. …………’