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Ombudsman raps council over cuts to support given to man with special needs

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has criticised the London Borough of Bromley after it significantly reduced the support package provided to a man with special needs.

The man, who is in his early 20s and has autism and other needs, was at a residential college in another area. During the holidays, he attended a day centre, and also received a set number of hours one-to-one support.

However, in 2015, despite Bromley not reassessing the man, the council reduced the number of hours it paid for the one-to-one care. The man’s mother had to provide the rest of the care herself.

At the same time, the man’s day-care centre closed, and Bromley failed to identify an alternative placement, or pay a comparable amount to fund replacement care, the LGO said. “Again the mother had to provide the care, while the man missed out on accessing stimulating activities outside of his home.”

When the council did pay the family for the care, the money they received was not paid in consistent amounts, or at fixed times.

The LGO said Bromley suspended the payments for 17 months as the mother could not provide the evidence the council, rightly the Ombudsman acknowledged, needed to account for the money. “But when the council backdated the money, it put it into a holding account which the mother could not access. This meant there was no money available to support the man during the holidays.”

When the mother complained to the council about her circumstances, it never replied or responded to her complaint.

Following the investigation, Bromley has agreed to:

  • apologise and pay the family £2,865 to reflect the time, trouble and distress it caused;
  • ensure care and support is reviewed at least on an annual basis;
  • ensure that money paid periodically for a fixed period of care is paid at specific times and in specific amounts;
  • review its use of ‘holding accounts’ so emergency money sent to individuals is immediately accessible; and
  • train officers so complaints are responded to in full.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Families with significant care needs like this rely on the right support being provided in the right way, and at the right time. Councils cannot change care packages at short notice and without making the proper assessments.

“I am pleased Bromley council has agreed to my recommendations to improve its services and welcome the changes it will now put in place.”

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