Family misses out on more than two years of support

A Lancashire family missed out on quality time together for more than two years, because the county council did not provide the correct support to their severely disabled daughter, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has found.

The family had been in receipt of funding which gave them one weekend a month of respite care for their daughter, who has a number of medical conditions affecting her development, learning ability and behaviour and required constant supervision and care. This package allowed the family, which also included two other children, the chance to spend time together.

When that placement was no longer suitable in June 2009, Lancashire County Council failed to provide adequate replacement care, or offer the correct amount of additional funding to purchase a suitable alternative.

The package offered to the family was at much less than the council’s standard rate for direct payments, leaving the family without adequate support – and without the ability to fund alternative placements when their favoured provider was closed during the holidays.

The council also failed to review the case for the next two years. When it reassessed the girl’s needs in September 2011 it took another five months to clarify the details of the package and how it could be used.

By January 2012 the council discovered the family was being underfunded.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

“The family has been affected during a crucial stage in the siblings’ schooling causing them a great deal of distress. Lancashire County Council should have reviewed the family’s options much earlier than they did.

“I am particularly concerned that the council said it was making direct payments that could have been used to purchase other services, when in fact the rate at which they were paid was so low that the family were limited to just one provider. This is contrary to the intentions of a policy designed to give people greater personal choice over provision of service.

“The council should have either paid the family at the full rate from September 2009 when the placement broke down, or funded a like-for-like alternative placement for the weekend respite care.”

To remedy the complaint, the LGO has recommended that the county council pay the family £7,500. The council has agreed to this remedy.

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