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A man with mental health problems was forced to sleep on his parents’ sofa for 18 months because London Borough of Hounslow failed to support him properly.

The finding comes after an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, which found the council did not do enough to protect the man from potential harm, or support his parents adequately.

The council has agreed to the Ombudsman’s recommendations to apologise, make amends to the family, and make changes to its processes to avoid other people being affected by the same issue.

In this case, the man had lived in supported accommodation but because he was not receiving the right support, struggled with debt, lost weight and failed to keep to his medical appointments. He also had difficulty keeping both himself and his room clean, and there were concerns he was being exploited at his voluntary work placement.

Professionals working with the man had noted their concerns for at least four years, but the council didn’t address them. When the council investigated in 2016, the son’s accommodation was described as ‘almost derelict’. The council decided the best option was to surrender the man’s tenancy, and for him to live with his parents until an alternative could be found. The parents disagreed as they did not have enough room for their son.

The family complained to the Ombudsman, who found that when the man moved to live with his parents, the council failed to develop a care and support plan for more than four months, leading to a break in the support he received.

The Ombudsman’s investigation also found the council did not assess the mother as the man’s carer, despite the fact it knew he was only living with his parents because it had failed to provide him with the care he needed.

It knew the arrangement could break down quickly and it would take a long time to find accommodation in the other area, but there is no evidence it considered alternatives or interim measures.

The Ombudsman’s investigation also criticised the council’s ability to access its care records, and its complaint handling after the family complained.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:

“It is vitally important when a person with mental health needs moves from one authority to another that there is no break in support provision.

“In this case the lack of support, both when the man was living independently, and once he had moved in with his parents, had a devastating impact on the man and his wider family.

“I welcome the council’s readiness to agree to the changes recommended and hope once implemented they will help ensure nobody else is affected in the same way.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services.

In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay the parents £1,000 for the significant and avoidable distress, time and trouble. It will pay the son £2,500 for the significant and avoidable distress, risk of harm and loss of opportunities.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to ensure it has access to social care records held by health authorities, and make sure staff log all cases and alert managers where a lack of historic records causes difficulty.

It will also consider what action it needs to take to prevent a repeat of the faults identified. It should ensure care and support plans are completed promptly in future, staff are clear what action to take to provide adequate support following a placement breakdown, and take responsibility for the actions of its care providers and those it contracts services to.

Disclaimer: This is an official press release from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

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