Ombudsman criticises council for leaving visually impaired man without support to access the community

A visually impaired man did not have the help he needed for 14 months after Westminster City Council reduced his support package, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

The man, who also has physical health problems, had his support package cut by the council after he left hospital in September 2018. As a result, the man was not able to go on assisted walks for more than a year – a failure by the council that the Ombudsman said negatively impacted his mental and physical health.

He complained to the Ombudsman, with help from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and an investigation ensued.

According to the Ombudsman, the investigation found that the council had not included the man's identified need for support to access the community in his care plan.

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Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said that the council failed to meet an identified support need in this case.

King said: "The man in this case had an identified support need and so had a legal right to have that provided by Westminster City Council.

"He should have been given help to get out and access services. He said he would have gone on regular assisted walks, which helped with his physical and mental health needs, but he was denied this for more than a year.

"I'm pleased the council has agreed to my recommendations to put things right, and hope the review I have asked them to make of other visually impaired people's cases will ensure no other people will be similarly affected in future."

Westminster City Council has agreed to apologise to the man and pay him £2,000 to be offset against any outstanding care charges he owes the council.

The council has also agreed to "review all cases of visually impaired adults receiving adult social care funding to ensure that where they have an eligible unmet need for support to access the community, that there is provision in their personal budget and care and support plan to meet that need".

It will also remind staff to check there is funding in a person's care and support plan to meet each identified unmet eligible need.

Westminster City Council has been contacted for a statement.

Adam Carey

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