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City council to pay complainant £25k in compensation for missed education and delayed complaint response

Sheffield City Council has agreed to pay more than £25,000 in compensation to a vulnerable woman after a Local Government, and Social Care Ombudsman investigation found she had gone without education for more than four years.

The Ombudsman was asked to investigate after the woman and her family felt the council's inquiry into her complaint had not done enough to acknowledge the problems the young woman had faced after finding she had been abused.

Because of the impact on her mental health, the woman has been unable to attend college, yet the council did not put in place alternative education to ensure she maintained her studies.

The woman, who has epilepsy and visual impairments, had been provided with a care worker by the city council and the local NHS clinical commissioning group to help meet her needs and manage her seizures.

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In 2017, she became increasingly withdrawn until she told her mother her care worker had been disclosing intimate and confidential details about her other service users to her and unloading their personal problems. The woman felt angry and disrespected and was concerned the care worker was also breaching her own confidentiality, the Ombudsman found.

The family urged the council to investigate, but it delayed completing its safeguarding investigation into the actions of the care provider. During the investigation, the council told the woman she could have stopped the abuse had she spoken up sooner, the Ombudsman said.

When the family asked for different care workers, the council wrongly told them the only other option involved them paying a 'top-up' fee.

The woman and her mother also complained that her care plans were not updated properly and at times were "neglectful, dangerously uninformed and posed a danger" to her. The young woman's Education Health and Care Plan was also not updated properly, and she was out of education for 49 months period until March 2021.

The council's own investigations acknowledged the issues the family faced, that there were significant gaps in the council's service, and it has made a number of changes to the way it works with young adults.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said the council failed the vulnerable young woman many times during an extended period, "at a time when she was most at need of support and even sought to lay some of the blame for the abuse continuing on her".

He added: "This has had a significant impact on her mental health and delayed her natural progression into adulthood and further education.

"It is to its credit that the council has acknowledged the significant problems faced by this young woman and her mother, and accepted my recommendations. I hope the changes it has already pledged to make, and the learning it will take away from this case, will ensure young people moving between Children's and Adult Services will not be put at such a significant disadvantage in future."

In light of the findings, the council agreed to pay £500 for every month in which the council failed to provide her with education from September 2017 until the current provision was put in place (March 2021) will also be paid, totalling at least £24,000.

In addition, it will pay the woman and her mother £1,500 each to recognise their distress and time and trouble in trying to get the council to put things right over a number of years.

The council also agreed to refund the £605 which the woman wrongly paid towards her care, plus interest.

John Macilwraith, Executive Director of People Services, said: "We fully accept the findings from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and fully acknowledge that we failed to make sure that Ms C had the education, health, and care support that she deserved over a long period of time. This was completely unacceptable, and we are very sorry for this. We have learned many lessons from Ms C's situation.

"Ms C had the right to these services, and we didn't act properly for her or Mrs B.

"Ms C now has a detailed plan and is engaged in learning. We have committed to supporting Ms C with her education and this support will continue into adulthood. We are making changes to our systems and have protections and procedures in place to reduce the chance of anything like this happening again."

Adam Carey

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