An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found a council at fault for not reviewing an autistic woman’s care plan for more than five years, and for not adhering to the most fundamental parts of the Care and Support Statutory Guidance.
The LGO said the woman had been left without proper support as a result of Salford City Council’s failings.
The Ombudsman’s investigation also found that the local authority had not carried out any autism awareness training for staff. This raised the question as to whether more people had been affected by the same problems, it said.
The background to the case was that the woman was assessed for the care and support she needed with domestic tasks and accessing the community in 2013.
In 2018 her support agency withdrew its services because she had not paid the workers’ expenses.
Originally, Salford paid both fees and expenses, but it has since changed its arrangements so that providers now recover expenses directly from its service users. However, this was never explained to the woman, and so she was not aware there was a problem, the Ombudsman said.
The LGO said that while the council’s second investigation into the woman’s complaint was good, had it reacted properly to her first complaint much of the subsequent problems she experienced could have been avoided.
Salford has now agreed to:
- reinstate the woman’s care and support plan, including payment of her expenses while it arranges to reassess her. “The assessment should be carried out by a social worker with training and experience in the needs of autistic people”;
- pay the woman £1,000 for her distress and a further £200 for the time and trouble of bringing the complaint;
- undertake an audit of all adult care recipients in the area to ensure their care and support plans have been reviewed and updated appropriately;
- arrange training so that NHS staff carrying out the council’s adult social care functions are up-to-date on their responsibilities around carrying out assessments and writing care plans;
- make arrangements for relevant staff to receive autism awareness training.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Under the Care Act authorities have a duty to review care and support plans at least every 12 months. In this case the woman was not properly reassessed for more than five years. Two doctors’ letters were on file, but these cannot constitute a proper annual review or reassessment.
“It is difficult to say just what impact this lack of oversight has had on the woman, but the council would have had the chance to properly consider her changing needs had it reviewed and updated her care plan in the correct way.
“However, the council’s response to my report has been very positive. I’m particularly encouraged by the proactive steps the council is taking to improve its service above and beyond what I have recommended, and I hope this ensures other people will not have the same difficulties in future.”
Cllr Gina Reynolds, lead member for adult services, health and wellbeing at Salford, said: “The council, along with our health partners, has accepted the findings of the Local Government Ombudsman report published on 10 October and we apologise again fully to the complainant.
“As the Ombudsman recognises, we have put a robust action plan in place to improve the service above and beyond their recommendations. This is developing a new and stronger approach to how we manage and develop the quality of our practice to ensure a case like this does not happen again. I have welcomed the Ombudsman’s view which agreed this action plan was a satisfactory response.”