LGO decision: Kent County Council 10 012 742 [2012] MHLO 102A

"In her report concerning services for a young woman with learning disabilities, the Ombudsman says: 'The Council’s failure to complete an assessment before the young woman was 18 caused her the injustice of losing services she was assessed as needing. The support plan that was eventually produced did not include services to meet these needs.' In addition, the Council’s poor communication led to uncertainty, confusion and frustration for the young woman and her family, and she was denied a direct payment and the choice to arrange her own respite care."

Text of decision

Report ref 10 012 742

In her report concerning services for a young woman with learning disabilities, the Ombudsman says: “The Council’s failure to complete an assessment before the young woman was 18 caused her the injustice of losing services she was assessed as needing. The support plan that was eventually produced did not include services to meet these needs.” In addition, the Council’s poor communication led to uncertainty, confusion and frustration for the young woman and her family, and she was denied a direct payment and the choice to arrange her own respite care.

Miss B was a young woman with learning disabilities attending college. Her mother contacted the Council in good time to begin planning what services she would have once she was 18. A care manager should have been involved as soon as Miss B was 17½, but this did not happen until after she was 18. The care manager assessed Miss B’s needs as serious enough to be eligible for services, and to include opportunities to socialise during evenings and weekends. There was a delay in producing a support plan and, when it was eventually produced, it did not include all Miss B’s eligible needs.

Miss B’s mother was not offered a carer’s assessment, although she was providing a substantial amount of care for her daughter. The Council did not offer a service that could provide her with a break from her caring responsibilities until the Head of Service responded to her complaint. That service – respite care for Miss B only in one of the Council’s own residential homes – did not comply with the legal requirement to offer a direct payment. The internal Council guidance issued to care managers in July 2010 restricting respite care to the Council’s own residential care homes did not comply with the law.

The Ombudsman found maladministration by the Council in:

  • not assessing Miss B until four months after she was 18
  • not producing a support plan for another four months
  • not including Miss B’s assessed needs that were eligible for services in that support plan
  • poor and confusing communication with Miss B and her family
  • not offering Miss B’s mother a carer’s assessment
  • not offering Miss B direct payments so she could arrange her own care, and
  • restricting respite care for Miss B to its own residential care homes.

The Council’s officers have agreed that it will remedy the injustice caused to Miss B and her family. It will pay the value of the services Miss B lost between becoming 18 and them eventually being provided and £250 to reflect her mother’s time and trouble in pursuing the complaint. It will also amend the form it uses for support plans and tell everyone entitled to respite care of their right to have direct payments.

In 2009 the previous Ombudsman issued a report finding maladministration by the Council in having a policy of restricting respite care for disabled children to its own residential homes. The Ombudsman said: “I am surprised and disappointed to find the maladministration recurring in services for adults with a learning disability. I appreciate the Council’s need to use its resources as effectively as possible but that cannot be at the expense of peoples’ right to the choice and flexibility that direct payments give.”

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