Ombudsman describes the cutting of care as an 'injustice'
April 7, 2022
Ealing Council has been fined £500 after it cut an autistic man’s care package during the pandemic. The local authority was forced to pay the money to the man’s family after it cut support to him during the Covid lockdown in 2021.
According to a report published by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was an autistic adult who had learning disabilities, which meant he needed one on one support 24 hours a day, had difficulty communicating and was unable to make decisions for himself.
The man, referred to only as Mr J in the report, lived with his parents and before the pandemic had nine hours of care a day during the week and eight hours on Saturdays from two personal care assistants provided to him by the council’s social care provider, Ealing Mencap.
In January 2021, the government introduced a third national lockdown which required the public to stay at home. The public was instructed to work from home if possible and only leave the house to shop for necessities or to seek medical attention.
When the January lockdown was announced, Ealing Mencap told the man’s family that his care hours would be halved to just four and a half hours a day because it was not safe for their staff. The report quotes Ealing Mencap’s email to the man’s mother which said: “We equally do not think sitting in someone else’s house for 9.5 hours is a safe option for our staff, hence our decision to cut Mr J’s package of support… by half for the time being.”
The report said that the man didn’t cope well with change and when his carers were unavailable, his family looked after him instead. According to the report, after Mr J’s care hours were cut, the care he was given was inconsistent, which left his family struggling to support him by themselves.
Additionally, Ealing Mencap suggested the man attend their day centre for support, despite his family saying he couldn’t do so because of his needs. In its findings, the ombudsman said that Ealing Mencap’s reason for cutting the man’s care hours did not match up to Covid guidance issued by the government at the time, that said support for people with autism or learning disabilities could be continued if staff wore PPE and followed correct hygiene measures.
The ombudsman also found that the man’s care needs had not been assessed since 2018, and said that had they been, the council would have known to provide better care to him at home. According to the report, the man has since tragically passed away. No connection was made with his care provision.
The ombudsman said that despite the man receiving care from Ealing Mencap, Ealing Council was ultimately responsible because it commissioned the care provider. Branding the man’s experience an “injustice”, the ombudsman ordered Ealing Council to pay his mum £500 to “acknowledge the distress she was caused by fault” and remind staff to carry out regular care reviews.
A spokesperson for Ealing Council said: “Ealing Council has accepted the report from the LGO and progressing the actions as set out in their report including reviewing arrangements with providers who provide care on our behalf.”
Ealing Mencap have been approached for comment.
Lisa Haseldine - Local Democracy Reporter