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Home care service left vulnerable man ‘at risk of harm’ for 18 months

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A council’s safeguarding failings put a vulnerable man at “significant risk of harm” for more than 18 months, an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The man, whose health conditions and disabilities meant he had significant difficulty with mobility and completing daily living tasks, received daily visits from agency care workers arranged by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

However, the council failed to comply with its own procedures in regards to the man’s care and, after receiving complaints from the man’s son, closed a safeguarding investigation without completing it, the investigation found.

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The Ombudsman found that care calls were cut short despite the man’s needs not being met safely; care workers were not trained properly and signed for medication they did not give, putting him at increased risk of seizures.

It also found the council at fault for how it handled complaints raised by the man’s son about his father’s care and the amounts he was being charged in August 2016.

A review by the council identified care workers had not been using a hoist and sling for transfers, and the assessor was concerned the methods being used were not safe.

Further complaints from the son listed issues such as medication not being administered, the father not being strapped into his wheelchair properly leaving him at risk of falling, and workers not washing up after meal times or dealing with soiled bedding and clothes hygienically.

However, it took the council two months to identify the issues may be a safeguarding risk, the Ombudsman found.

When an officer visited the father, she was told a hoist had fallen over with him in it and there had been problems with medication not being administered even though it had been signed for.

The son also raised concerns about invoices for his father’s care, and the threatening letters his father was receiving about payments. He asked council workers to send the invoices to him rather than his father.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “When relatives raise concerns about vulnerable people’s care, it is of paramount importance that councils act promptly to ensure people are safe. Regrettably, in this case this did not happen, and the father was left at risk for far too long.

“Unfortunately, we cannot now put this right for the father because he has passed away. But the measures I have recommended to the council should improve procedures to prevent instances such as this from happening to others.”

Wirral Council said it has apologised to the man’s family and agreed to waive 50% of his care fees and pay £200 to “remedy the frustration and stress the situation it has caused them”.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Wirral Council offers its fullest apologies to this family. The Council has accepted the findings of the report and is implementing all the recommendations made by the Ombudsman.

“The authority has since significantly improved the way domiciliary care is managed and kept under review to accommodate changes in circumstances and ensure care packages meet people’s needs as they change over time, and the level of care commissioned is appropriate to the needs of each individual who receives this care.

“The Council’s aim is to ensure each of those who receive domiciliary care have their needs fully met by a care package which works flexibly to meet their specific needs, and that if there are complaints these are dealt with quickly and fairly. We accept that in the case highlighted by the Ombudsman this did not happen. We apologise for this and can reassure residents that we have comprehensively reviewed and improved our complaint handling procedures.”

Tags : Local Government and Social Care OmbudsmansafeguardingWirral Council
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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