The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has criticised Liverpool City Council for not ensuring two teenage siblings with significant needs were provided with the support they should have received for 18 months.
The siblings, who have multiple disabilities including visual impairments and complex communication needs, both have Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).
The Ombudsman said that, as part of the EHCPs, the council agreed to provide them with support to access social activities in term-time and the school holidays.
The city council organised for a provider that had the relevant skills and qualifications to help them, but the provider was not able to offer the appropriate support.
The mother then asked Liverpool to give her a personal budget so she could source her own support.
However, instead of the council giving the mother the £25 per hour it was prepared to pay its provider, it only allowed her to pay £8.21 per hour. She found this amount insufficient to commission the special support the siblings needed, the LGSCO report said.
The mother complained that the support workers paid by the authority were not providing all the hours the two siblings needed, and staff were not appropriately trained. She complained to the council, but it still did not offer to give her the same amount it was paying the provider, the Ombudsman said.
The siblings have missed around two thirds of the provision they should have received for 18 months, with one missing out on an average nine hours’ support and the other 12 hours each week.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “The council’s lack of initiative to deviate from its set policy of providing support has had a huge impact on this family. Not only have the teenagers not had the social support to which they were entitled, but the mother having to take on that role has affected her own health, friendships and social life.
“This poor handling of the family’s complaint was exacerbated by the council taking too long to rectify the family’s situation when it accepted it was wrong.”
“I’m pleased Liverpool council has already agreed to amend its Direct Payments Policy and hope the measures it will put in place will ensure other families are not put in the same situation.”
The council has agreed to:
- apologise to the mother
- pay her £7,200 to acknowledge the missed support and distress caused to her children;
- pay a further £1,000 to acknowledge the distress and uncertainty caused;
- pay her £350 to recognise the uncertainty and time and trouble caused by its poor complaint handling;
- review its Direct Payments Policy to ensure it is compliant with its duties under the Care Act.
A Liverpool City Council spokesperson said: “We wholeheartedly apologise to the family for the delays and errors in this case. We fully accept the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, will comply with their recommendations and will be taking steps to review our Direct Payments Policy.”