Lancashire County Council at fault for failing to secure the planned respite care and over communications about potential supported living settings

Decision Date: 13th January 2023

What happened

Mr Y, a young adult, had learning disabilities and needed someone to care for him at all times. He lived at home and attended a specialist college (College A) from Monday to Friday, funded by the Council. A social worker completed a social care assessment for him in June 2021, noting that his parents, Mr and Mrs X, met some of his needs: 

  • Personal care 
  • Toileting 
  • Being appropriately clothed
  • Managing nutrition 
  • Maintaining the home 

The assessment also noted Mr and Mrs X’s views and desired outcomes:

  • Mr Y’s sister be permitted to provide some care as an exception to the usual rule that close relatives living in the same household cannot be paid to provide care. 
  • Mr Y to have a week-night residential placement at College A as a stepping-stone for a supported living placement in the future. 
  • More respite care for Mr Y, given that caring for him was challenging and his parents had other caring and work responsibilities. (They had been receiving a direct payment intended for respite care, but “they could not access their full entitlement, so some money had been clawed back” [we presume that they had not been able to spend all the money allocated for respite due to the pandemic.] However, they still had access to funding for respite care through the Short Breaks service.)
  • Activities and socialising for Mr Y, which he liked doing, to be arranged for him, given the difficulties due to the family home location. 
  • Two care workers to be restarted caring for Mr Y in April 2021 [the report is silent on when and why this had stopped]. 

At the time of the June 2021 assessment, Mr Y’s previous care and support plan set out his eligible needs, desired outcomes, personal budget, and allowed for a direct payment for residential respite care. He received a weekly direct payment of £575 and a direct payment for respite of £3700 for the financial year starting in April 2022. [The report does not say whether anything was done about the issues raised in the June 2021 assessment]. 

Mr and Mrs X complained to the Council in June 2022 about the same issues they complained to the LGSCO about, namely that the Council failed to provide respite care to Mr Y and failed to “provide” a supported living placement in accordance with his active care and support plan. 

The Council responded in September, upholding the complaints about Mr Y’s active care and support plan and responding as follows (summarised): 

  • The short breaks service had not been available for a long time due to COVID-19 infection risks, leaving Mr Y without a service. People only got some of their entitlement after that. 
  • The Council had asked College A if it could offer respite care the previous year [i.e. in 2021], but it had no capacity due to staff shortages. Mr Y’s social worker was going to ask the college again. 
  • Mr Y’s social worker had started looking for supported living in September 2021. A new project was suitable and potentially available in January 2022, but the house was empty due to staff recruitment problems. The Council apologised for the confusion. The Council would involve occupational therapists at an early stage to check adaptations. Staff might have identified another suitable supported living placement, and Mr Y’s social worker would contact them about it. 

The Council said it would do the following: 

  • Get Mr Y’s social worker to attend housing forum meetings and share regular updates on progress, viewing any suitable placements before they were offered.
  • Ensure there was good strategic planning around creating housing options for people with similar needs to Mr Y’s. A review was underway.

The Council also told the LGSCO it had not completed carer’s assessments for Mr and Mrs X and said it would arrange for these to take place. [The report does not say what happened after]. 

What was found

The LGSCO made two main findings of fault: the Council failed to provide respite care as per Mr Y’s care plan and it failed to help provide a supported living placement [‘provide’ is the word used in the report, but we would point out that housing is not provided by the Council at all]. 

The LGSCO acknowledged that the Council provided a lack of respite care due to COVID-19. This was in relation to the care and support plan Mr Y had at the time of the June 2021 assessment, which entitled him to more respite care than he received. COVID-19 did not negate the Council’s duties under section 18 of the Care Act 2014, which involved providing Mr Y replacement care so that his parents could have a break – because the active care plan had said so. This failure to provide respite care was fault. 

The Council had not claimed Easements, we assume. 

Under Section 10 of the Care Act 2014, the Council also had an obligation to complete carer’s assessments for Mr and Mrs X, which it did not do. Noting their views on Mr Y’s social care assessment was not enough, leading to the LGSCO’s finding of fault. 

The fact that one placement fell through because of staff recruitment problems was not within the Council’s control, leading to the LGSCO finding no fault in that regard. However, communication with Mr and Mrs X about placement options and progress was poor, raising their expectations and causing unavoidable frustration. Communication was where fault lay, and not the absence of a provided living placement. 

The LGSCO concluded that the agreed actions would be as follows: 

  • Within a month of their decision, the Council should do the following:
    • Meet with Mr and Mrs X to come up with a written plan about securing Mr Y’s respite entitlement for the financial year, including confirming whether College A can offer respite nights;
    • Apologise to Mr and Mrs X for the unavoidable distress and to Mr Y for failure to ensure meeting his eligible needs, and make them symbolic payments of £500 each to reflect the loss of opportunity to have a break from caring for Mr Y, to experience respite breaks and the benefits of the independence and socialising that would have been afforded to Mr Y;
    • Complete carers’ assessments for Mr and Mrs X and carers’ support plans;
    • Ensure Mr and Mrs X receive updates at least monthly about progress towards securing a supported housing option for Mr Y, providing the LGSCO with written evidence of updates; 
  • Within three months, the Council should provide the LGSCO with a written report of all the options for supported living explored with Mr Y and his parents, and provide a summary of progress. 
  • The Council should provide the LGSCO with evidence of compliance with the above actions. 

Points to note for councils, professionals, people using services and their carers, advocacy groups, members of the public

It is encouraging that the LGSCO made clear that: the law requires the Council to meet Mr Y’s eligible unmet needs. His care and support plan set out his entitlement to respite care.” In other words, since eligibility has been established under Section 13 of the Care Act, the Council’s duty under Section 18 was triggered. As we reported in this other report involving Lancashire, the Council had not enacted the Care Act easements which were introduced as a result of the Coronavirus Act 2020. Whilst we understand that the pandemic made things difficult in this and many other regards, the duty under s.18 to meet Mr Y’s needs still applied.

Similarly, Section 10 of the Act stipulates that the Council must carry out a carer’s assessment where it appears to them that a carer may have needs for support. The LGSCO makes reference to the fact that Mr and Mrs X’s views were “noted on Mr Y’s social care assessment”, but that did not discharge the duty owed to them under s.10.

Regarding the failures regarding the vision for a supported living setting for the man’s future, the LGSCO found that “I note one placement fell through because of staff recruitment problems. This was not within the Council’s control and so it was not at fault”. 

We would say that the Council’s main failure in regards to the housing option was not about providing it as such, as part of social care (which is actually explicitly forbidden under s.23 of the Care Act 2014), but rather communicating to Mr Y about the progress of seeking placement options. Instead the LGSCO found the Council at fault with the fact that communication with Mr and Mrs X around placement options and progress was poor, as well as in relation to their failure to provide a response to the complaint in a timely manner.

We know of at least one current complaint where counsel has advised the council that a sizeable amount of compensation needs to be paid – a mixture of restitution for the labour provided and a financial sum for the shillyshallying en route to the young man’s ultimately successful move into a tenancy.

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 on the actions of Lancashire County Council can be found here: https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/adult-care-services/assessment-and-care-plan/22-010-039

SHORTENED FOR R-UP

Lancashire County Council (22 010 039)

Summary: Lancashire County Council failed to secure respite care, trying to use COVID as an excuse, and failed to properly communicate about a supported living placement when one became available. 

Mr Y, a young adult, had learning disabilities and needed someone to care for him at all times. He lived at home and attended a specialist college (College A) from Monday to Friday, funded by the Council. A social worker completed a social care assessment for him in June 2021, noting, among other things, that his parents, Mr and Mrs X, wanted Mr Y to have a week-night residential placement at College A as a stepping-stone for a supported living placement in the future, and more respite care for Mr Y, given that caring for him was challenging and his parents had other caring and work responsibilities. In June 2022, Mr Y’s parents complained to the Council that it failed to provide enough respite care to Mr Y and failed to “provide” a supported living placement in accordance with his active care and support plan. The Council tried justifying the lack of respite care by citing difficulties stemming from COVID-19 infection risks. It explained that a supported living placement could not yet be secured as College A had no capacity due to staff shortages. 

The LGSCO made two main findings of fault: the Council failed to provide respite care as per Mr Y’s care plan and it failed to help provide a supported living placement. COVID-19 did not negate the Council’s duties under section 18 of the Care Act 2014, which involved providing Mr Y replacement care so that his parents could have a break – because the active care plan had said so. Under Section 10 of the Care Act 2014, the Council also had an obligation to complete carer’s assessments for Mr and Mrs X, which it did not do. The fact that one placement fell through because of staff recruitment problems was not within the Council’s control. However, communication with Mr and Mrs X about placement options and progress was poor, raising their expectations and causing unavoidable frustration. Communication was where fault lay, and not the absence of a provided living placement.

CASCAIDr Comment: It is encouraging that the LGSCO made clear that: “the law requires the Council to meet Mr Y’s eligible unmet needs. His care and support plan set out his entitlement to respite care.” In other words, since eligibility has been established under Section 13 of the Care Act, the Council’s duty under Section 18 was triggered. Similarly, Section 10 of the Act stipulates that the Council must carry out a carer’s assessment where it appears to them that a carer may have needs for support. The LGSCO makes reference to the fact that Mr and Mrs X’s views were “noted on Mr Y’s social care assessment”, but that did not discharge the duty owed to them under s.10. We would say that the Council’s main failure in regards to the housing option was not about providing it as such, as part of social care (which is actually explicitly forbidden under s.23 of the Care Act), but rather communicating to Mr Y about the progress of seeking placement options. Instead the LGSCO found the Council at fault with the fact that communication with Mr and Mrs X around placement options and progress was poor, as well as in relation to their failure to provide a response to the complaint in a timely manner.

Read the full CASCAIDr insights report into this complaint here.

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