Council forced to apologise to deafblind couple after ombudsman review

Suffolk County Council offices, Endeavour House. Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council offices, Endeavour House. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: ARCHANT

Council chiefs have been told to apologise to a deafblind Suffolk couple after an ombudsman ruled that there had been flaws in the way it assessed their care.

The couple had told Suffolk County Council (SCC) that they wanted their support worker to attend meetings with them to discuss their care package reviews.

SCC declined the request saying that it was not appropriate for the worker to attend and argued that they wanted an independent advocate to attend instead.

While the dispute took place the council halted the assessments for the couple's care and support plans.

The couple took their complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who found flaws in the county council's assessments of the couple.

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The Ombudsman found the council to be at fault for excluding the couple's support worker from the support review meetings and for saying it could not complete their care and support plans while there was an ongoing complaint.

The Ombudsman says that SCC have since accepted most of its findings but has yet to accept that it was wrong to exclude the support worker from the meeting.

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Local government and social care ombudsman, Michael King, said: "Statutory guidance says when assessing people and revising their care and support plans they can have any other person they want involved.

"While the council was right to identify the need for an independent advocate because, as a paid employee, the couple's support worker could not fulfil that role, that did not mean it could exclude her from meetings to discuss the couple's care and support plans.

"I now urge Suffolk County Council to consider my report and its findings and complete its assessment of the couple."

SCC has since been asked to apologise to the couple and pay them £500 for any distress caused. It will also have to apologise to the support worker and pay her £250 for the trouble she has been put to in pursuing the complaint.

The Ombudsman also asked the council to reassess the couple's needs and update their care and support plans.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: "The Ombudsman found that there had been fault on the part of Suffolk County Council and we have agreed to take appropriate action, which the Ombudsman regards as satisfactory.

"We will now consider the report and tell the Ombudsman within three months what we propose to do. The Audit Committee will meet on July 24 to discuss the matter."

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