A young man with special educational needs has been left in short-stay accommodation for nearly two years because social workers in Lancashire could not decide where he should live permanently, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The man was placed in short-stay accommodation by Lancashire County Council after his family told social workers they were struggling to cope with his behaviour and the impact it was having on his younger siblings.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the placement in January 2016 was only meant to be temporary, but the man is still living in the accommodation today. It is likely the man’s behaviour has deteriorated through not living in suitable accommodation and not receiving appropriate support.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:
“This man has been left in limbo in this accommodation, which by its very nature was only ever intended to be a short stay. He has missed out on vital support and development opportunities while his life has been on hold for some two years.
“The knock-on effect of this delay is other families have missed out on respite care too, as the facility has been unable to offer the room to others in need while the man has been stuck there.
“I’m pleased the council accepted my recommendations and now hope it acts swiftly to put in place the proper support this man needs.”
The young man was first placed in the accommodation, which provides short breaks for people with a learning or physical disabilities, in January 2016. At the time, he was also attending college, but he was later excluded from college because of his challenging behaviour in March 2016.
Throughout the period the council has failed to come to a proper decision about the most suitable accommodation. A nurse’s assessment suggests his current placement does not meet his sensory or emotional needs.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council at fault for the delay in finding suitable permanent accommodation for the man, and allowing the situation to drift.
His Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan was never updated to reflect his change in circumstances, and the council has not provided the support set out in his plan since March 2016.
The problems with the man’s behaviour may have been prevented or reduced if he had received the support he was entitled to as set out in his EHC Plan. The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council:
• failed to amend or stop his Plan when he could no longer attend college
• failed to ensure the provision set out in his Plan was met by Day Service
• failed to hold an annual review of the Plan, and so
• denied the man’s parent the right to appeal to the Tribunal
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.
In this case, the council has agreed to find suitable long-term accommodation as soon as possible for the man and provide the Ombudsman with an action plan with timescales.
The council will assess what additional support he needs in the interim to make the Short Breaks Service, where he is currently living, suitable to meet his needs and put this in place. It will also review his EHC Plan.
The council will pay the man’s parent £2,500 to use for the man’s benefit to support his educational, social, language and behavioural needs. It will apologise and pay the parent £500 to acknowledge the distress and time and trouble they were put to, for the lost opportunity to appeal to the Tribunal in 2016, and for the delay in the right to appeal in 2017.