Lancashire CC (02/C/16008)
Special educational needs
'Mr and Mrs Wood' (not their real names for legal reasons) complained that the council delayed issuing a statement of special education needs for their son, and then the council failed to supply the provision specified in the statement.
The ombudsman found that the final statement was issued 12 weeks later than the statutory time limit of eight weeks following the first amended proposed statement, and that that delay was maladministration.
However, the council's delay was caused by its desire to accommodate the parents' wishes and that delay did not result in delay in providing an appropriate educational package. There was, therefore, no injustice caused to the Woods' son from the council's delay.
Though the ombudsman found that there was delay in supplying the special education required by the Woods' son, the reasons for the delay lay outside the council's control. The ombudsman did not therefore find that the council acted with maladministration regarding this aspect of the complaint.
The ombudsman finds maladministration, but no injustice.
Findings of maladministration and injustice
Easington DC (03/C/5712)
'Mr Edward' (not his real name for legal reasons) complained that the council failed to take action to stop a developer from building a gabion wall for which planning permission had not been granted, and failed to ensure that the development as built complied with the conditions imposed upon the planning permission. He also complained that the scheme to protect the dwellings on the development from noise from his farm was inadequate, and he was being subjected to complaints and harassment from residents of the new dwellings.
The ombudsman found that the council's failure to take action was maladministration, but she could not conclude that, if an application to regularise the gabion wall had been submitted, Mr Edward would have been in a better position than he is now. The ombudsman noted that the council has now decided to commence enforcement action and is continuing to seek a satisfactory outcome.
The ombudsman found that the council's failure to ensure the implementation of a suitable landscaping scheme to reduce the noise and smells from Mr Edward's farm was maladministration.
The ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice and recommended that the council should begin negotiations with Mr Edward to explore what can be done to provide further screening between his farm and the houses closest to it. The council should pay for any extra works to be done. The council should also pay£500 to Mr Edward in recognition of the distress and worry he and his family have suffered.
Daventry DC (02/B/9512)
Planning consideration/neighbour amenity
'Mr Robin' (not his real name for legal reasons), a tenant farmer, says that the council should not have granted planning consent for a residential development on the farmyard he rents. The application is contrary to the Local Plan and development policies and, as a consequence of the council's approval of the application, he will lose his livelihood. This is because, without the use of the farmyard, he will no longer be able to farm. He also says that, when considering the application, the council had regard to derogatory comments made by the vice chairman of the planning committee and these comments unfairly swayed the decision. The council says that the application was acceptable because of the linkage to the withdrawal of an earlier planning permission on another piece of land. Mr Robin says that the linkage to the other piece of land was spurious and contrary to government guidance about planning obligations.
The ombudsman finds maladministration by the council that caused injustice to Mr Robin because he lost security of tenure, and recommends that the council:
-pays Mr Robin£10,000
-reviews its planning arrangements to satisfy itself that the maladministration identified does not recur
Sheffield City Council (02/C/8690)
Social services for adults
'Mr W Hill' has a brother, 'Mr K Hill' (not their real names for legal reasons) who has learning difficulties and an autistic spectrum disorder. Mr W Hill complained that the council failed to assess his brother's needs properly in 2000 and then failed to reassess his needs as recommended by a social services complaints review panel. He also complained that the council failed to assess his own needs as his brother's carer, failed to provide his brother with an adequate service, and failed to deal properly with complaints about these matters.
The ombudsman found that the complaints were justified. Her investigation revealed that the council had undertaken no proper assessment when it first received a referral in 1999, kept no proper records and failed to undertake any effective service planning. No practical help was provided to the brothers at this time despite the existence of a new source of grant aid from central government (Promoting Independence: Partnership, Prevention and Carers Grant) between 1999 and 2002 designed to provide, for example, respite care in this kind of situation. A care plan was drawn up after an assessment completed in June 2000 but the council's attempts to help the brothers were not successful, primarily because social services staff did not take the time to build up a relationship with Mr K Hill and he kept refusing services offered because he finds new people and social situations frightening. Mr W Hill requested a carer's assessment in August 2000 but the ombudsman found no evidence that this was undertaken until November 2002.
The ombudsman upheld the complaints about the way the complaints from Mr W Hill had been handled.
The council stated that it is not culpable because Mr K Hill rejected services when offered them. The ombudsman accepted that services could not be forced on an unwilling person but criticised the council for taking these rejections at face value rather than considering whether, given his degree of learning difficulty and autistic spectrum disorder, Mr K Hill's decisions to reject services were informed decisions.
The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends that the council:
-pays Mr K Hill£4,500 compensation for loss of service over a period of four-and-a-half years;
-pays Mr W Hill£1,500 for loss of support as a carer and for his time and trouble in pursuing his complaint;
-makes direct payments to Mr W Hill to provide services for Mr K Hill in accordance with any current assessment and future reassessments of Mr K Hill;
-makes direct payments to Mr W Hill for the purchase of respite care for Mr K Hill in accordance with any current carer's assessment and future reassessments;
-ensures that its staff receive specific training in relation to the needs of service users with autism;
-ensures that its staff complete file notes for each visit and contact made on behalf of clients;
-complies with the requirements of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 guidance in relation to assessments and care plans and to the principles laid down in the White Paper Valuing People;
-complies with statutory timescales for determination of complaints under the social services statutory complaints procedure.