Council criticised for ‘failings’ in care of vulnerable woman with learning disabilities
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
A local authority has been criticised for “failings” in the care of a vulnerable woman with learning disabilities who later died.
The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has today (Friday, July 22) issued a public interest report regarding the inadequate support provided by Wrexham Council.
Ombudsman Michelle Morris launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from the sister of the woman, known only as Ms Y.
Ms Y, an adult with learning disabilities and history of alcohol dependence, had been moved by the council into supported living accommodation, managed on its behalf by a contracted provider.
Her sister was unhappy over delays in the provider telling the authority of increasing concerns about Ms Y’s behaviour.
She was also concerned that when the provider finally did make contact, they were unable to access support for Ms Y, who died in April 2020.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found the provider did not escalate matters quickly enough and the council did not appropriately manage Ms Y’s care when issues were eventually raised.
She also found the council did not look to share information about Ms Y’s condition with her sister and identified failings in how it handled the initial complaint.
Commenting on the report, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Michelle Morris, said: “This is a sad case of grave injustice and we extend our sympathy to the family.
“We acknowledge that when Ms Y died, the Covid-19 pandemic had already placed severe pressure on the council’s services.
“Nevertheless, we decided that, given that Ms Y was a vulnerable adult with a history of known alcohol dependence, concerns about her condition should have been escalated sooner, and the council should have offered support when matters were finally escalated.
“Our report is clear that we cannot know whether earlier interventions by the council would have altered the sad outcome for Ms Y.
“However, we are also clear that several opportunities to intervene were lost.”
The Ombudsman said the chance to ensure Ms Y had support from her family was missed as the council did not seek her consent to share information with them.
She said the failings identified in the process call into question the strength of the authority’s investigation and its findings.
Although the council was not directly providing day to day care for Ms Y, as the body with overall responsibility for social care , she concluded it was responsible for the failings.
The council has now accepted the findings of the Ombudsman’s report and has agreed to implement her recommendations in full.
In a joint statement on behalf of Wrexham Council, chief executive Ian Bancroft, chief officer for customer and governance Linda Roberts, and chief officer for social services Alwyn Jones said: “This was a sad and difficult set of circumstances, and we apologise unreservedly for the distress this has caused to the family.
“We’ve also been in touch with the family to apologise personally
“The council has worked closely with the Ombudsman to support the investigation, and fully accepts the findings of the report.
“The report recognises that staff were trying to achieve a difficult balance between avoiding overly restricting Ms Y’s independence while supporting her safety and welfare, but the errors identified – including the way concerns were escalated and acted upon too slowly – are deeply regrettable.
“The council has agreed to the recommendations in the report, and is fully committed to making improvements.
“Immediate actions have already been identified and are being implemented, and we’ll be ensuring all of the recommendations are fully implemented.”
The Ombudsman recommended that the council’s should issue a meaningful apology to Mrs Y’s family and remind staff of the importance of monitoring contracts with third parties.
She also said it should ensure there is an appropriate intervention if there are concerns about the provision of services or a change in a person’s needs.
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