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The Moray Council

  • Report no:
    201811019
  • Date:
    April 2020
  • Body:
    The Moray Council
  • Sector:
    Local Government

Summary

Ms C complained to my office on behalf of her son, Mr A, about the care and support provided to Mr A by the Council. Mr A was a Looked After Child under Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (a child who is looked after by the local authority as part of a voluntary arrangement). In September 2015, Mr A moved to a residential school placement outwith the Moray area. In June 2019, the Education component of Mr A’s placement ended following his eighteenth birthday. The Council then transitioned Mr A from Children’s to Adult Social Work Services. Adult Services agreed to financially support Mr A to remain in the residential placement for one year until June 2020 or until an appropriate resource was found in the Moray area.

Ms C is concerned that the Council have not fulfilled their responsibility to provide her son’s residential placement under Continuing Care (the local authority’s duty to provide the same accommodation and other assistance as was being provided by the local authority, immediately before the young person ceased to be looked after).

We took independent advice from a social work adviser. We found that:

  • the Council failed to begin transition planning for Mr A at least 3 years before he was due to leave school;
  • the Council failed to carry out a pathway assessment prior to making the decision that Continuing Care was not available to Mr A and prior to transitioning Mr A to Adult services; the Council did not take reasonable steps to ensure that Mr A could make informed choices. In particular:
    • there is no evidence in the records that Mr A was given concrete examples of the type of care he might be offered or that he was taken to see possible care settings;
    • a recommendation made at a Looked After Child Review in January 2018 to offer Mr A independent advocacy was not actioned until over a year later.

In view of these failings, we upheld Ms C’s complaint that the Council failed to act reasonably regarding Mr A’s care and support.

Ms C also complained about the Council’s communication with her about her son’s care and support. Following advice from a social work adviser, we found that:

  • the Council largely engaged with Ms C via email rather than holding meetings outwith the formal Looked After Child Review process;
  • an invite to a Looked After Child Review was sent three days before the Review was due to take place;
  • there was a delay in the Looked After Child Review minutes being available and there was a delay in these being sent to Ms C;
  • Ms C was not provided with information on how to make a Continuing Care request when she requested this.

In light of these findings, we upheld Ms C’s complaint that the Council failed to communicate reasonably with her.

Lastly, Ms C complained about how the Council handled her complaint. We found that there was an unreasonable delay in Ms C receiving a response to her complaint and the Council’s complaint response had been copied directly from an email that had been sent to Ms C before she submitted her complaint.  There was no evidence that the Council had investigated Ms C’s complaints, and the Council’s complaint response did not address all the complaints that Ms C made to the Council or indicate whether her complaints were upheld or not upheld. In view of these significant failings, we upheld Ms C’s complaint that the Council had failed to handle her complaint reasonably.

 

Redress and Recommendations

The Ombudsman's recommendations are set out below:

What we are asking the Council to do for Ms C and Mr A:

Rec. number

What we found

What the organisation should do

What we need to see

1.

Under complaint (a) we found that:

  • the Council failed to begin transition planning for Mr A at least three years before he was due to leave school.
  • the Council failed to carry out a pathway assessment prior to making the decision that Continuing Care was not available to Mr A and prior to transitioning Mr A to Adult Services.
  • the Council did not take reasonable steps to ensure that Mr A could make informed choices. In particular:
    • there is no evidence in the records that Mr A was given concrete examples of the type of care he might be offered or that he was taken to see possible care settings.
    • a recommendation made at a Looked After Child Review in January 2018 to offer Mr A independent advocacy was not actioned until over a year later.

Under complaint (b) we found that the communication with Ms C was unreasonable. In particular:

  • the Council largely engaged with Ms C via email rather than holding meetings outwith the formal Looked After Child Review process.
  • an invite to a Looked After Child Review was sent three days before the Review was due to take place.
  • there was a delay in the Looked After Child Review minutes being available and there was a delay in these being sent to Ms C.
  • Ms C was not provided with information on how to make a Continuing Care request when she requested this.

Under complaint (c) we found that:

  • there was an unreasonable delay in Ms C receiving a complaint response.
  • the Council’s complaint response was copied directly from an email that had been sent to Ms C before she submitted her complaint.
  • there was no evidence that the Council had investigated Ms C’s complaints.
  • the Council’s complaint response did not address all the complaints that Ms C made to the Council or indicate whether her complaints were upheld or not upheld.

Apologise to Ms C and Mr A for:

  • failing to begin transition planning for Mr A at least three years before he was due to leave school.
  • failing to carry out a pathway assessment prior to making the decision that Continuing Care was not available to Mr A and prior to transitioning Mr A to Adult Services.
  • failing to communicate reasonably with Ms C about her son’s care and support.
  • failing to handle her complaint reasonably.

The apology should meet the standards set out in the SPSO guidelines on apology available at www.spso.org.uk/informationleaflets

A copy or record of the apology.

By: 20 May 2020

2. Under complaint (a) we found that the Council failed to act in line with their ordinary residence policy when they indicated that all out of area children have to move back to the Moray area as the basis for only providing funding for Mr A to remain in the residential placement for one year. Consider whether it would be appropriate to fund Mr A to remain in the residential placement until he is 21 years of age or whether this could be achieved through Self-Directed Support.

Evidence that the Council have considered funding Mr A’s residential placement until he is 21 years of age or whether this could be achieved through Self-Directed Support, taking into account the findings of this investigation, discussing the matter with Ms C and providing Ms C with full reasons for any decisions reached.

By: 20 May 2020

We are asking the Council to improve the way they do things:

Rec. number

What we found

Outcome needed

What we need to see

3.

Under complaint (a) we found that the Council failed to begin transition planning for Mr A at least three years before he was due to leave school.

Where a young person has significant additional support needs, transition planning should begin at least three years before a young person is due to leave school.

 

 

Evidence that the findings on these complaints have been fed back to relevant staff in a supportive way (e.g. a record of a meeting with staff; or feedback given at one-to-one sessions).

Evidence that the Council have considered any training needs for social work staff in relation to transition planning.

By: 22 October 2020

4. Under complaint (a) we found that the Council failed to carry out a pathway assessment in line with their Transition to Adult Services Policy prior to making the decision that Continuing Care was not available to Mr A. Where a young person is approaching adulthood, a pathways assessment should also be carried out to assess throughcare and aftercare options (including an assessment of whether it is in the young person’s best interests to remain in their current placement under Continuing Care rather than transitioning to Adult Services) with the input of the young person, their parents/guardians, Adult Services and any other interested agencies.

Evidence that the findings on these complaints have been fed back to relevant staff in a supportive way (e.g. a record of a meeting with staff; or feedback given at one-to-one sessions).

Evidence that the Council have considered any training needs for social work staff in relation to pathways assessments, Continuing Care and Ordinary Residence.

Evidence that the Council have reviewed their Continuing Care Procedure taking into account Mr A’s case and the legislative framework.

By: 22 October 2020

5.

Under complaint (a) we found that the Council did not take reasonable steps to ensure that Mr A could make informed choices. In particular:

  • there is no evidence in the records that Mr A was given concrete examples of the type of care he might be offered or that he was taken to see possible care settings.
  • a recommendation made at a Looked After Child Review in January 2018 to offer Mr A independent advocacy was not actioned until over a year later.

Looked After Children with complex needs should be given examples of the type of care they might be offered and be taken to see possible care settings.

Where a recommendation has been made to offer a Looked After Child independent advocacy, this should be acted on timeously.

Evidence that the findings on these complaints have been fed back to relevant staff in a supportive way (e.g. a record of a meeting with staff; or feedback given at one-to-one sessions).

Evidence that the Council have considered any training needs for social work staff in relation to making sure that Looked After Children with complex needs can make informed choices.

By: 22 October 2020

6. Under complaint (b) we found that the Council largely engaged with Ms C via email rather than holding meetings outwith the formal Looked After Child Review process. The Council should engage in a meaningful way, including holding meetings with parents/guardians, outwith the formal Looked After Child Review process, when planning the future care for Looked After Children with complex needs.

Evidence that the findings on these complaints have been fed back to relevant staff in a supportive way (e.g. a record of a meeting with staff; or feedback given at one-to-one sessions).

By: 22 October 2020

7. Under complaint (b) we found that Ms C was not provided with information on how to make a Continuing Care request when she requested this. Information on how to make a Continuing Care request should be provided to individuals when they request it.

Evidence that the findings on these complaints have been fed back to relevant staff in a supportive way (e.g. a record of a meeting with staff; or feedback given at one-to-one sessions).

By: 22 October 2020

8.

Under complaint (b) we found that:

  • an invite to a Looked After Child Review was sent three days before the Review was due to take place.
  • there was a delay in the Looked After Child Review minutes being available and there was a delay in these being sent to Ms C.

Invites to Looked After Child Reviews should be distributed in a timely way.

Minutes of Looked After Child Review should be typed up and distributed in a timely way.

Evidence that the Council have a system in place to timeously:

  • distribute invites to Looked After Child Reviews.
  • type up and distribute minutes of Looked After Child Reviews.

By: 22 October 2020

We are asking the Council to improve their complaints handling:

Rec. number

What we found

Outcome needed

What we need to see

9

Under complaint (c) we found that:

  • there was an unreasonable delay in Ms C receiving a complaint response.
  • the Council’s complaint response was copied directly from an email that had been sent to Ms C before she submitted her complaint.
  • there was no evidence that the Council had investigated Ms C’s complaints.
  • the Council’s complaint response did not address all the complaints that Ms C made to the Council or indicate whether her complaints were upheld or not upheld.

The necessary systems should be in place to ensure that complaints are handled in line with the Moray Council’s complaint handling procedure and the Model Complaints Handling Procedure and that all staff responsible for dealing with complaints should be aware of their responsibilities in this respect.

Evidence that the findings on these complaints have been fed back to relevant staff in a supportive way (e.g. a record of a meeting with staff; or feedback given at one-to-one sessions).

Evidence that the Council’s systems demonstrate senior level/governance responsibility for complaint handling.

By: 22 October 2020

Feedback

Points to note:

I note that the Ordinary Residence Policy and Procedure on the Council’s website appears to be out of date. The SPSO appear to have been provided with the most up to date copy of this policy and procedure. The Council may wish to consider updating this on their website.

Updated: April 22, 2020