Austerity is no excuse for a service led response to need[1]

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSO) upheld a complaint concerning Gwynedd Council.  Although the case predates the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 the findings are wholly relevant to practice under the Act at both strategic and operational level.  The final report by the PSO’s Office was published in January of 2017.

The PSO considered that the council’s failure to reassess an adult with learning difficulties prior to its decision to withdraw his support services was maladministration (indeed this was unlawful). It was also maladministration for the council’s not to consult with him about the changes it proposed: namely to replace his 9 hours per week one-to-one support worker package with group support for 7 hours every 2 weeks.  The council’s fault was that it had followed a service led response to his needs rather than a person centred response.

This case highlights a failure to comply with the statutory guidance:

  • the need to reassess before deciding to change a care plan;
  • the need to consult with people who are in receipt of social services provision; and
  • the need to focus on the individual and his/her needs and circumstances.

At a time of continuing austerity, with local authorities seeking to reduce their expenditure on adult social care, this PSO report serves as a salutary reminder to practitioners of the importance of legally compliant practice as a way of safeguarding the rights of people who are in need of care and support. It should be reminder too, to local authorities that the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 has at its heart established principles about the assessment and delivery of social care in Wales.

[1] Gwynedd Council Number 201503803 – Report issued in January 2017