Decision Date: 12th September 2019
Mrs E complained on behalf of her son, Mr F.
Mrs E wrote to the Council’s mental health social care team at the end of September 2018 when Mr F was in a drug and alcohol recovery unit. She asked what the plans were for Mr F’s discharge. There was no written reply to Mrs E’s letter.
Mrs E complained to the Council at the end of October 2018. She was concerned because Mr F’s placement in the drug and alcohol recovery unit was ending the following week. Mrs E said she was not aware of any plans for Mr F’s care and support when he left the unit. She said she had left messages with the office and no-one had returned her calls.
Mr F returned to his supported housing address when his recovery unit placement ended.
The Council responded to Mrs E’s complaint in November saying:
- It was sorry no-one responded to her phone calls and the manager apologised for this;
- Mr F should have had a discharge plan before he was discharged. The Council was sorry for the poor contact and planning and the stress and anxiety this caused;
- The Council had allocated a different social worker and her concerns about the previous social worker speaking about her own stresswere being addressed in supervision
- Staff were being spoken to in supervision and meetings about how to manage work loads.
Mrs E wrote to the Council again in December 2018. She said nothing had changed since she complained and there had only been one phone call. She said a psychiatric nurse had not been allocated to support Mr F with his mental health and a group had not been arranged as discussed.
A social worker carried out a social care assessment in February 2019 and a care and support plan was drawn up at the end of February. The plan included help in managing and maintaining nutrition, maintaining personal hygiene and accessing the community by the mental health team and a support worker from the enablement team.
Kent and Medway NHS Partnership Trust allocated Mr F a psychiatric nurse in February 2019.
Mrs E complained to the LGO in February 2019. She said Mr F was not receiving any support apart from seeing a psychiatrist. She said she had been to a meeting at the end of January where support was promised and a care plan had been completed but there was no action since then.
The Council said Mr F’s support worker had drawn up a plan with him which included: applying for a bus pass, visiting the town to use facilities, introducing him to a local mental health project and completing a budgeting plan. The Council said this support had been successful.
The Council said a social worker had reviewed the care and support plan in May and concluded Mr F’s needs had been met and so no further involvement from social care was necessary. However, Mrs E wanted support to continue and so there was due to be a further social care assessment/review because Mr F appeared to be struggling to open his mail and pay bills.
What was found
The Council should have assessed Mr F’s needs to determine his eligibility for care and support before he was discharged from the drug and alcohol unit. It should have drawn up a care and support plan if the outcome of that assessment was he had eligible unmet needs. The Council failed to act in line with sections 9, 24 and 25 of the Care Act 2014. This was fault which caused Mrs E and Mr F avoidable distress.
The LGO was satisfied that the Council had acted in line with the Care Act since February 2019. It completed an assessment and care and support plan, identified Mr F’s eligible unmet needs and evidence showed that they had delivered the care and support identified in the plan.
The Council’s complaint response in November 2018 identified the same fault the LGO had found. It apologised for the avoidable distress and set out actions including allocating a different social worker and addressing concerns with the previous social worker in supervision. This was a partial remedy. The Council should also have considered whether a symbolic payment was appropriate in the circumstances of the case. The failure to consider a financial remedy was fault.
The LGO recommended that the Council apologise and pay Mr F and his mother Mrs E £250 each to reflect their avoidable distress.
Points to note, for councils, the public, service users, advocates and families
Mental health teams with clients with non-acute needs (so not those on s117 aftercare, or compulsorily detained patients who will be entitled to s117 aftercare) owe CARE ACT functions to the clients: they are people who deserve assessment, eligibility decisions, care plans and budgets just as much as any other client group.
If one’s been in a drug and alcohol unit, it cannot be assumed that one’s previous care plan for one’s supported living setting, will still be adequate.
We love it that the LGO has found fault in a council’s failure to consider a financial remedy. We think that complaints teams all over the country need to take note of the developments in findings of fault and injustice by the LGO and take on board the fact that it isn’t good enough to resolve a complaint tinged by unlawfulness, without considering what the person has missed out on.
Complaints officers surely need legal framework training, if this is the way things are going.
If you want help, please consider seeking advice from CASCAIDr via our referral form on the top bar menu of the site.
The full Local Government Ombudsman report of Kent County Council’s actions can be found here