Buckinghamshire County Council at fault for failing to commence section 42 safeguarding enquiries and for failing to provide a needs assessment

Decision date: 31/10/19

What happened

Mr B complained to the Council about its numerous failings since July 2017, when he had first asked for support.

During this time it had received ten referrals from the police about Mr B’s welfare, all of which concerned his mental health. The Council generally sent the referrals to Mr B’s doctor, or to the community mental health team. Mr B said the Council should also have made section 42 safeguarding enquiries and provided him with support.

Most of the referrals sent to the Council did not contain any concerns about abuse or neglect by a third party. However, in September 2018 the Council received a referral that said Mr B felt he was being bullied by his neighbours.

Records show that in November of the same year Mr B phoned the Council and asked for direct support regarding one of the police referrals, but that the Council only signposted him to an advocacy service and to the citizens’ advice bureau.

Mr B wrote to the coroner’s office in December, providing details about the abuse he had been suffering from his neighbours. Only then did the Council decide to commence what it regarded as non-statutory section 42 enquiries.

The Council then contacted Mr B and he gave permission for his mother to speak on his behalf. The Council met Mr B and his mother and then his landlord to discuss the alleged abuse. However, it was then agreed to put the section 42 enquiries on hold whilst Mr B was dealing with a separate court case.

In February 2019, the Council offered to formally assess Mr B’s needs for support and care. He agreed at first but then said that he would wait for an independent advocate to be provided, and for the Ombudsmen to finish considering his complaint.

What was found

The Ombudsman found the Council at fault for failing to properly consider whether to make safeguarding enquiries when Mr B had asked for support in November 2017, and again in September 2018 upon receiving the police referral. Only once Mr B wrote to the coroner’s office did the Council commence safeguarding enquiries. There was no fault found after this decision was made.

The Ombudsman also found the Council at fault for failing to provide a Care Act needs assessment until 2019, a year and a half after Mr B first asked for support. The Ombudsman regarded the lack of support as injustice and felt that Mr B may have otherwise resolved the problems he was having with his neighbours, if supported.

There was no fault found in the Council not providing Mr B with an independent advocate as Mr B had given permission for his mother to speak on his behalf. The Council did provide an independent advocate upon Mr B’s request for one.

Remedies

The Council agreed that it would apologise to Mr B and pay him £200 compensation. It would also explain clearly to Mr B what must be done if he would like to continue to section 42 process and/or have a needs assessment and provide him with an independent advocate should he like the support of one.

Within eight weeks, the Council would:

  • remind its adult social care staff of the statutory requirement to make enquiries under section 42 of the Care Act if it has reason to think a person may be at risk of abuse or neglect and has needs for care and support which mean they cannot protect themselves;
  • remind its adult social care staff of the statutory requirement to carry out an assessment for any adult with an appearance of need for care and support; and
  • ensure that when it is notified of concerns about a person’s welfare, and it decides not to offer an assessment of needs or not to commence safeguarding enquiries, it properly records the reasons for its decision.

Points for the Public, Service Users and Families – and safeguarding staff

It’s not ok for the reaction to self referrals and concerns about someone else’s wellbeing or behaviour (in relation to the police referrals) to be treated just as requests for some other agency to assess or to become involved. Here, the Council generally sent the referrals to Mr B’s doctor, or to the community mental health team – without engaging as to whether there was a safeguarding issue underlying the pattern, or a need for a Care Act assessment. Of course he might have refused one, but he was not given the chance to, for many months too long.

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The full Local Government Ombudsman report on the actions of Buckinghamshire County Council can be found here:

https://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/adult-care-services/safeguarding/19-000-746