Cheshire East Council

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Council agrees to pay out £60k after Ombudsman report into failure to support autistic woman

A council has agreed to pay a woman with autism, severe anxiety disorder and associated mental health disorders £60,000 after it failed to provide her with support for more than five years.

The failure came despite Bradford Metropolitan District Council agreeing a support plan with the complainant, Ms G, and her consultant psychiatrist from 2014.

Ms G said her wellbeing had been impacted severely.

A report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said it was difficult to quantify the adverse impact the lack of formal support had had on her wellbeing and independence.

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“However, it is apparent from the evidence available and from the contact with Ms G that she has substantial difficulty navigating processes, managing her daily living skills, communicating with agencies, accessing public and utility services and travelling around safely,” the LGO said.

“It is likely this has been made worse because of a lack of formal support. Fault by the council is likely to have caused Ms G significant injustice because of the severity of adverse impact on her wellbeing.”

The council has agreed to the recommendations made by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in its report.

These included that it would:

  • write to Ms G, via her chosen representative if necessary, to apologise for the adverse impact the failure to provide her with support for over five years has had on her wellbeing and independence;
  • pay her £60,000 to acknowledge the substantial adverse impact on her wellbeing caused by the failure to provide her with the support the council assessed she needed and the associated distress and severe anxiety she experienced. The remedy was calculated based on the substantial difficulty Ms G had had since being assessed and left without formal support for over five years. This equated to £1,000 monthly x 60 months;
  • discuss with Ms G and her representative whether the payment would impact on her entitlement to benefits/finances and if necessary, pay an independent professional person to provide her with financial advice;
  • ensure Ms G has access to independent advocacy to help her navigate the care and support planning process;
  • determine how it will implement Ms G’s care package based on the last assessment and support plan completed and subject to its procedures relating to personal budgets, direct payments and financial assessment;
  • confirm to Ms G its decision on the other parts of the support plan which it deferred to “not at this point”. The council “should provide clear reasons to show how it reached its decision and provide this to the Ombudsman. If the council decides Ms G should have received any of these services earlier, it should consider the injustice and provide a remedy and share this with the Ombudsman”;
  • liaise with Ms G and her chosen representative to appoint a suitable person who can review/reassess her needs in line with the Care Act 2014 on behalf of the council;
  • ensure Ms G and her representative are provided with documentation such as care plan, support plan and written information relating to personal budgets and direct payments with clear explanations to show how the council reaches its decisions and applies its care and support planning policies and procedures to Ms G’s case;
  • consider and implement any reasonable adjustments necessary to ensure Ms G can use its services as close as it is reasonably possible to get to the standard usually offered to non-disabled people;
  • review the findings of this investigation and consider whether training is needed for officers responsible for care and support planning around autism and the duty to make reasonable adjustments; and
  • consider whether its policies and procedures relating to people who use services who are autistic and have associated mental health disorders is in line with best practice.

A copy of the report can be viewed here.

Bev Maybury, Strategic Director for Health and Wellbeing Services at Bradford, said: “We fully accept the Ombudsman’s decision in this case. We recognise that, on this particular occasion, we fell short of the standards we set ourselves and we apologise for this and the distress it has caused Ms G. We have made sure we have addressed all of the recommendations made by the ombudsman to prevent anyone else experiencing similar issues.”

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