Martin Ford 13 June 2019

Ombudsman reprimands council over support for vulnerable people

Councils have been reminded of their obligations to supporting vulnerable people by the Ombudsman after Suffolk CC halted assessments for a deafblind couple’s care plans because of a dispute.

The couple wanted their support worker to attend meetings with the council to discuss care package reviews.

But Suffolk CC said it was not appropriate for the support worker to attend and wanted an independent advocate there instead.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, ruled in favour of the couple and found flaws in the council’s assessment.

Suffolk has now accepted most of the Ombudsman’s findings, but has yet to accept it was wrong to exclude the support worker from the meetings.

Mr King said: ‘Statutory guidance says when assessing people and revising their care and support plans they can have any other person they want involved.

‘While the council was right to identify the need for an independent advocate because, as a paid employee, the couple’s support worker could not fulfil that role, that did not mean it could exclude her from meetings to discuss the couple’s care and support plans.

‘I now urge Suffolk CC to consider my report and its findings and complete its assessment of the couple.’

The Ombudsman’s recommendations include ensuring assessments are accurate, support plans comply with guidance and continue during disputes, people can choose who supports them, and mental capacity assessments comply with legal requirements.

Suffolk has been asked to apologise to the couple and pay them £500 for the distress they have been caused.

It should also apologise to their support worker and pay her £250 for the trouble she has been put to in pursuing the complaint.

A council spokeswoman said: 'The Ombudsman found that there had been fault on the part of Suffolk CC and we have agreed to take appropriate action, which the Ombudsman regards as satisfactory.

'We will now consider the report and tell the Ombudsman within three months what we propose to do.'

Photo: © Hamish Griffin

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