THE Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found the Isle of Wight Council failed to properly investigate and escalate an Island mum’s complaint over her disabled son’s personal budget.
It came after issues arose over how matters were communicated, how the budget was managed and what the money was spent on.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the Isle of Wight Council did not follow procedures, set out in law, for dealing with complaints about children’s services.
By the time the Ombudsman became involved, the complaint had been delayed for more than a year.
In light of the findings, the Isle of Wight Council will make payments to the mum and her son, review similar cases and ensure staff are fully trained.
What was the complaint about?
The complaint centred on matters surrounding the personal budget of a disabled Islander with ‘complex’ needs.
Payments were stopped after a disagreement about how the money was being spent and how it should be managed.
The Islander’s mother repeatedly asked the council to escalate her complaint to stage two of a three-stage complaints procedure.
Each time she asked for her complaint to be escalated, the council decided her dissatisfaction was about a separate issue instead and said it was a new complaint, according to the Ombudsman’s findings.
“The council was, in effect, preventing her from accessing her statutory rights.”
She sought help from a solicitor to try to get the council to escalate her complaint. The council then told her she needed to meet certain criteria before it would be progressed.
Michael King, local government and social care Ombudsman, said: “Statutory guidance says councils must progress complaints through all three stages of the children’s complaints procedure if that is what the person wants.
“By putting conditions on the mother’s complaint and insisting she was making new complaints even when they covered the same issues, the council was, in effect, preventing her from accessing her statutory rights.
“I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations and hope the training and procedural changes it has agreed to make will ensure other complaints are handled properly in future.
“I will be issuing new guidance to local authorities shortly to clarify how I expect them to tackle children’s complaints.”
What will Isle of Wight Council do?
Isle of Wight Council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay the son £100, to acknowledge he did not have access to service he was entitled to for two months.
It will pay his mother £300, to acknowledge the uncertainty and distress caused and £500 to acknowledge the time and trouble caused by not escalating her complaint to stage two.
The council has agreed to review its procedures for personal budgets and develop a procedure to respond to concerns about how personal budgets are managed.
The council has also agreed to provide all staff training on the statutory complaint procedure.
It will task a senior officer, not previously involved, to contact all complainants refused a stage two or three complaint, to ensure each refusal complied with the statutory guidance.