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Council failed to assess man with autism properly leading to breakdown of relationship with mother, Ombudsman finds

The London Borough of Croydon did not do enough to support a man with autism, and his mother who looked after him, an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The man's mother complained to the Ombudsman claiming the council's lack of proper action led to the breakdown in her relationship with her son. She said the council did not properly support either of them when her son moved to supported accommodation, and it did not assess her needs as a carer - therefore overlooking her own communication difficulties.

The man had initially been living with his mother. He finds building relationships difficult and can become verbally aggressive when frustrated or anxious. As a result, the mother contacted the council to say she was feeling increasingly concerned about her son's verbal threats and was finding it difficult to manage.

At one point, because of the poor support, the man was sending up to 80 messages a day to his mother, the report noted.

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The Ombudsman's investigation criticised the council for failing to assess either the man or his mother properly. It failed to put in place the support the man needed as a person with autism when he moved into his flat, causing him anxiety and shifting the burden onto his mother, the report said.

As a result, the council failed to record preventive measures or a contingency plan of what would happen if his mother could not cope and the situation in the home became untenable. This resulted in the family reaching a crisis point with no alternative options readily available.

In addition, the Ombudsman found the council did not provide the man with a personal budget to meet his needs and only offered him the choice of one service provider. The council did not provide the man with a support plan or involve him in his own support planning and it did not offer him an advocate when it was clear both the man and his mother were struggling.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said the case highlighted how “crucial” it was for staff to have appropriate training so they have the skills and knowledge to support people with autism.

He added: “Because of this, the council failed to identify the man’s individual support needs and include him in designing his own support plan. This left the man frustrated and anxious, and his mother bearing the consequences.

“I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations to improve its services for other people with autism in the borough.”

Croydon has agreed to apologise to the man and his mother and pay them both £1,000 to reflect their anxiety and frustration. It will also arrange a reassessment of the man by someone trained in supporting people with autism.

In addition, the council has agreed to review its overall strategy for providing services to people with autism and will remind staff about a number of issues including: person centred practice, the duty to complete carers’ assessments, the Equality Act 2010 and the need to make reasonable adjustments where necessary.

A council spokesperson said: “We are sorry that we didn’t provide Mr D and his mother with the right support and we have apologised to them for the distress that this has caused. We are developing new training to ensure all adult social care staff are equipped with the skills and knowledge to properly support people with autism and their carers, working closely with specialist autism and mental health professionals in our community. In our Autism Strategy, developed with residents across Croydon, we have set out a wide range of plans to improve the care and support we offer people with autism and their families.”

Adam Carey

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