Ombudsman finds council’s failure to support man with autism led to family crisis

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A London borough has been ordered to pay £ 1,000 each to a man with autism and his mother, who cared for him, after failing to support them properly, causing “stress, anxiety and loss of life. break in family life ”.

An investigation by the local government and social services ombudsperson found Croydon’s council at fault for failing to assess “Mr. D” or his mother “Ms. C”, and for failing to provide Mr. D with a support plan, a personal budget or a lawyer.

Mr. D had been moved into his own apartment by the town hall after Ms. C became unable to bear him living with her. But he did not take adequate measures or assess his needs as a caregiver, leaving Mr. D anxious and consequently bombarding his mother with threats and contacting her up to 80 times a day.

The mediator said Croydon should arrange for a reassessment of Mr D by someone trained and experienced in assessing and supporting people with autism and mental health issues.

It also asked the borough to review its autism services, particularly with regard to adequate staff training, and to establish a liaison process with mental health services and autism specialists.

No new assessment or care and support plan

Ms C filed a complaint with the council in early June 2020, around 15 months after assessing Mr D and finding him eligible for community support and in need of alternative housing, after living with his mother.

In addition to being autistic, Mr. D has mental health issues and can become verbally aggressive when anxious or frustrated.

The mediator’s investigation found no trace of the new assessment by the council, which said it actually just used a full assessment from 2017 as the basis for news to avoid causing distress to the board. MD.

In October 2019, the board told Mr D and Ms C that it had found him eligible for three two-hour support sessions per week, but did not provide any care and support plan that defined the needs. of Mr. D, the desired results or actions he was putting in place. .

The lack of a plan meant that when Mr. D moved into a home the following month due to Ms. C’s inability to cope, support workers had no information on what they could offer him.

Later, in the spring of 2020, after Mr D had moved into her own accommodation, Ms C raised concerns that a support agency subsequently set up “was not motivating or not. not doing the activities that Mr. D wanted “.

Threats to hurt the mother

Assistance services were then suspended due to the nationwide lockdown, but Mr D – who was struggling in his new apartment due to nuisance from neighbors and other hardships – refused to re-enlist once restrictions were relaxed. After Mr. D’s social worker arranged for the support staff to visit, “Ms. C contacted the social worker, telling her that Mr. D had threatened to hurt her if the social workers visited the home again. property, “says the mediator’s report.

Following Ms C’s complaint to Croydon about the support workers and the social worker, the council made a series of unsuccessful efforts to get things done by contacting her with Mr D and trying to organize meetings with them.

In September 2020, the community learning disabilities team got involved and made a referral to the mental health team, as well as the development of a health action plan. The mental health team rejected MD’s referral because it did not meet their criteria.

During her contact with the ombudsman, Ms C said Croydon ignored the fact that she suffered from a medical condition affecting her ability to communicate, failing to make reasonable adjustments to meet her needs. She said the board failed to properly support her son, which resulted in a family breakdown as Mr. D’s behavior towards her deteriorated due to his agitation.

“Ms. C says the board failed to protect her as a caregiver and person in needs,” the mediator’s report said. “In response to a draft of this report, Ms. C said the council’s actions also affected her extended family, including her eldest son who had to support her.”

“Crisis point without any readily available alternative option”

The ombudsman concluded that Croydon, by failing to re-assess MD, had provided no evidence that he had looked for ways to do one that would alleviate the stress levels caused to him.

“In [failing to properly assess Mr D’s needs Croydon] disregarded his Article 8 rights – particularly how his behavior affected his relationship with Ms C and this was potentially a contributing factor for him to leave the house as he did done, ”says the watchdog report.

“These rights would also have been identified if the council had completed an assessment and support plan for caregivers,” he added, noting that failure to comply with this obligation had “profound” consequences for Ms. C. “If the board had carried out these actions, it could very well have provided services that would have prevented Mr. D from reaching the point of crisis and leaving his home.

Although he sought the advice of a psychologist to contact MD, the board did not consider the adjustments support workers should make when engaging with him, the mediator found.

“The lack of reasonable adjustments is not in line with the Equality Act 2010, nor in the spirit of the Autism Act 2009,” the report said. “This says that staff need to be trained so that they have sufficient skills to support people with autism and stresses the need for properly performed assessments. “

Croydon did not take into account Mr D’s need for support in developing skills for independent living, leading to anxiety in him about accessing medication and health care, and managing bills – and putting the burden of support on her mother.

“The council did not record any preventive measures or contingency plan on what would happen if Ms C could not cope and the situation became untenable,” the mediator’s report said. “This drove Ms. C and Mr. D to a crisis point with no other readily available options. “

“A wide range of plans to improve care and support”

Michael King, the local government and social services ombudsman, said the case “shows how crucial it is that staff have the appropriate training so that they have the skills and knowledge to support people. autistic “.

“The board failed to identify the man’s individual support needs and include it in the design of its own support plan,” King added. “It left the man frustrated and anxious, and his mother suffered the consequences.”

A spokesperson for Croydon Council said the authority was sorry for not providing Mr D and his mother with the right support, adding that she had apologized to them for the distress caused.

“We are developing new training to ensure that all adult social service staff are equipped with the skills and knowledge to properly support people with autism and their caregivers, working closely with autism and healthcare professionals mental specialists in our community, ”added the spokesperson. “In our Autism Strategy, developed with the residents of Croydon, we have defined a wide range of plans to improve the care and support we provide to people with autism and their families.”


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