Council slammed over care failings

By Emily Pearce

Published on Friday, November 16, 2012 - 00:01


A TEENAGE girl with mental health difficulties so severe she was sectioned at just 13 years old suffered an injustice at the hands of the Isle of Wight Council, a watchdog has found.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has slammed the authority for wrongly withdrawing social care support from the girl — who suffers from autistic spectrum, reactive attachment and bipolar disorders — and cancelling her residential school placement.

According to a report published today (Friday) by the ombudsman: "The effect of the council’s failures was serious.

"The girl lost the structure and security provided by the weekly boarding placement, and her family had significantly less respite from her difficult and sometimes frightening behaviour."

Dr Jane Martin, of the LGO, said: "Given the view of the child’s consultant psychiatrist, I do not consider there is any doubt that proper and timely review of her residential placement would have confirmed the need for it to continue.

"So she was wrongly deprived of the continuity of care and security that is so vital to her wellbeing… And her parents and siblings had significantly less relief from her challenging and at times frightening behaviour."

Dr Martin found the council guilty of maladministration causing injustice and has recommended the authority pay the girl £5,000 compensation — to be used for educational purposes — her parents £2,000 and her father a further £250, for avoidable time and trouble in pursuing the complaint.

She also recommended the authority make a full apology to the family and carry out a review of its procedures and practises, to ensure similar failing do not happen again.

Council chief executive Steve Beynon said the authority accepted the ombudsman's findings and apologised to the family.

"There have been significant changes to practices in this area since this complaint was lodged in 2010. We are confident these improvements would prevent a repeat of the circumstances of this case," he said.

The council was wrong to withdraw social care support from the girl in 2008, two years after she was sectioned, and subsequently reduce her weekly school placement to two nights a week, according to the LGO report.

It caused her to become extremely unsettled and unable to sleep properly, and her social and independence skills deteriorated.

She was arrested in August, 2009, and taken into custody for her own safety and that of her family, after attacking her mother, and her parents' marriage failed due to the pressure.

The girl decided to leave school altogether last year and now requires constant supervision at home.

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