The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has criticised the local authority for failing to ensure it could connect a family with a provider that could bring about the appropriate support for two children, who have multiple disabilities including visual impairments and complex communication needs.
An investigation by the Ombudsman has led to Liverpool Council being forced to pay out thousands of pounds in compensation.
What did the investigation find?
A complaint was raised by the teenagers’ mother that between July 2020 and January of this year, the council had refused to pay the correct level of direct payments to secure required support and as a result, had failed to meet her childrens assessed social care needs. The mother, known in the report as Miss X, said the council also failed to adequately deal with her complaint about the matter and then delayed putting things right after accepting fault.
The siblings, who both have Education, Health and Care plans are provided with support to access social activities in term-time and the school holidays. According to the report, the local authority organised for a provider that had the relevant skills and qualifications to help them, but was not able to offer the appropriate support.
The mother instead asked the council to give her a personal budget so she could source her own support. However, instead of the council giving the mother the £25 per hour it was prepared to pay its provider, it only allowed her to pay £8.21 per hour.
Miss X found this amount insufficient to commission the special support needed and felt that the support workers paid by the authority were not providing all the hours required, and staff were not appropriately trained. She complained to the council, but it still did not offer to give her the same amount it was paying the provider.
The siblings missed around two thirds of the provision they should have received for 18 months, with one teen missing out on average nine hours’ support and the other 12 hours each week. Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “The council’s lack of initiative to deviate from its set policy of providing support has had a huge impact on this family.
“Not only have the teenagers not had the social support to which they were entitled, but the mother having to take on that role has affected her own health, friendships and social life. This poor handling of the family’s complaint was exacerbated by the council taking too long to rectify the family’s situation when it accepted it was wrong.
“I’m pleased Liverpool Council has already agreed to amend its Direct Payments Policy and hope the measures it will put in place will ensure other families are not put in the same situation.”
Miss X said during this period, her children lost out on a significant amount of social care and development which “caused distress and uncertainty.” She added that the matter has caused her “significant stress, uncertainty and time and trouble”.
What did the council say?
Liverpool Council agreed to apologise to the mother and pay her £7,200 to acknowledge the missed support and distress caused to her children and a further £1,000 in response to the distress and uncertainty caused. It will also pay her £350 to recognise the uncertainty and time and trouble caused by its poor complaint handling.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will review its Direct Payments Policy to ensure it is compliant with its duties under the Care Act.
A Liverpool Council spokesperson said: “We wholeheartedly apologise to the family for the delays and errors in this case. We fully accept the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, will comply with their recommendations and will be taking steps to review our Direct Payments Policy.”