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County Council: Authority’s action plan after six ombudsman complaints upheld

The issues were discussed as part of the council’s governance and standards committee meeting.

Nottinghamshire County Council has outlined its plan to address concerns after several complaints were upheld by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The watchdog received 14 complaints against the authority between June and August 2021, choosing to take no action on eight and issuing verdicts on the remaining six.

Five of the complaints related to council-run adult social care, including a historic complaint from 2018 when the relative of a care home resident was barred from visiting his mother after finding her with bruises. She has since died.

This complaint was issued as a public notice by the ombudsman, which said the council-commissioned home’s decision to ban him was “not in line” with regulations.

Mansfield-based Berry Hill Park care home, the site in question, has since apologised for the historic incident, stating it “in no way represents” its current care provision after a new home manager implemented “positive changes” on-site.

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As part of its own action plan, the county council has since offered the relative a £650 payment to reflect the “distress” caused, which he has rejected.

A letter was also sent to “formally acknowledge the failures” of the council and the provider. This, too, was rejected by the relative.

As part of its wider response, the authority has reminded care staff about the processes of excluding people from a care home, the importance of risk assessments, and provided training about anti-discriminatory recording and behaviour.

This guidance has also been communicated to all care homes, with guidelines shared about good practices relating to visitors and relatives.

Further action will be taken later this year regarding policies handling relatives, as well as communications with families on safeguarding to “avoid any further distress”.

The issues were discussed as part of the council’s governance and standards committee on Thursday 30 September .

Councillors were provided with a report from the ombudsman detailing all six upheld complaints, as well as the action required to rectify concerns.

Other complaints upheld against the council included issues with funding for care provision and a resident being wrongly viewed as having “notional capacity” to fund her care.

Commenting in the meeting, Councillor Pauline Allen (Lab) said: “Clearly every complaint is not only a marker of dissatisfaction but tells a story of families and individuals often struggling to access the most basic support.

“Whilst I appreciate these complaints are occasionally unavoidable, I have observed a trend over the last couple of years of upheld complaints, which reflect poorly on our service and also means quite a lot of stress has been experienced by service users.”

Responding to the concerns, Jo Kirkby, team manager of the council’s complaints and information team, said: “The aim is to have things resolved before they get to a complaint and the ombudsman.

“It’s a requirement that we always have to signpost people to the ombudsman at the end of their complaint process, it’s our duty to inform them.”

Ms Kirkby also referenced a separate ombudsman report for the year ending March 31, 2021, which found the watchdog upheld 54 per cent of complaints against the council across 12 months.

The figure was lower than the 71 per cent average for similar authorities, with Ms Kirkby adding: “This demonstrates the fact the work of the complaints team, together with operational colleagues, is of some value.”

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