Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Council fined over care delay

The following news story appeared on the BBC website.

Council fined over disabled care

Ombudsman Anne Seex criticises the council for delays to care. A council has been criticised for failing to assess the needs of disabled people in Northumberland and leaving them without help for several months. The problem was highlighted after a complaint from a 30-year-old woman wheelchair user with spina bifida. She complained to the Government Ombudsman that Northumberland County Council was forcing her to wait nine months to be assessed for a stairlift. The watchdog found delays for help were widespread and fined the council.
Investigating the complaint Ombudsman Anne Seex, found that other recent patients classed as non-urgent cases, had been forced to wait more than 18 months for their needs to be assessed.

Personal apology

Ms Seex said council chiefs must pay the 30-year-old complainant, known only as Miss Stone, £50 for every month they failed to give her an assessment. In a report released on Wednesday she also ordered council officers to say sorry to her personally and for a backlog of cases be addressed "as a matter of urgency". The council has six months to report its progress in tackling problems. Miss Stones' doctor wrote to the council asking that she be assessed for a stairlift on 17 May 2005. She is still waiting.

Ms Seex concluded delays in assessments were "unacceptable and clearly maladministration".
She said: "The complaint draws attention to a wider problem affecting the well-being of other disabled people in the area." No-one at Northumberland County Council was available for comment, but a letter to Miss Stone said: "It is a matter of regret that the situation was not monitored more closely."