Council lambasted for failing to support disabled St Albans man
PUBLISHED: 06:08 20 August 2015
Thousands of pounds in compensation and an apology have been given by the county council to a St Albans mum whose son suffers a painful, life-limiting condition.
The Local Government Ombudsman ordered the council to pay £5,000 compensation and apologise to Kaye Hemming for refusing to give her son Dominic Frangiskou-Hemming the services he was entitled to.
Dominic, 20, was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal genetic disorder where those afflicted - usually boys - start losing the ability to walk while very young, and end up in a wheelchair by the age of 10-12. He also has severe learning difficulties.
In a damning report on the treatment dished out to Dominic, the Ombudsman said the authority failed to properly assess and provide services to him. Having “found fault with the actions” of the council, she ordered it to make procedural changes.
Kaye, whose protracted, and fruitless, battle to obtain vital services for her son was publicised in the Herts Advertiser last year, said she had initially been “shocked” at winning her complaint.
Although the council has since apologised to her, Kaye is still angry about the “disgraceful and devious” way she was treated.
Her complaint to the Ombudsman related to the council’s failure to provide hydrotherapy sessions and an appropriate day/educational placement for Dominic when he left Watling View School in July 2013.
At the school he had four weekly hydrotherapy sessions to help reduce the level of pain he was suffering, enabling him to move freely.
There was disagreement over how Dominic’s educational and health needs should be met, with the council proposing a provider (A) offering two hydro sessions a week. Kaye did not consider it a suitable placement and suggested an alternative residential care provider outside the local area.
A NHS commissioning manager said hydrotherapy might not be the only way Dominic’s needs could be met, and subsequently the council’s funding panel ruled that provider A was suitable.
After Kaye challenged that decision in June 2013, an independent investigator upheld many of her complaints, in particular that the council failed to properly consider how many sessions of hydrotherapy Dominic needed, and whether provider A could safely meet his need to be hoisted into a pool which has to be at a certain temperature, without causing him distress.
Yet in October 2013, the authority commissioned day care for three days a week, but without hydrotherapy.
The council later said that its health and community services “do not fund hydrotherapy as this is a medical rather than a social care need”.
The Ombudsman slammed the council for failing “to separate [Dominic’s] health, educational and social care needs”.
Also, it failed to assess how much hydrotherapy he needed and provided no justification for suggesting two weekly sessions, despite Watling View providing four.
She criticised the council for basing its decision on an informal discussion with a NHS commissioning manager, rather than on Dominic’s needs, adding that he had suffered the “injustice” of not receiving any council-funded hydrotherapy between July 2013 and October 2014.
Kaye, who thanked St Albans MP Anne Main for her ‘fantastic support’ during her stressful ordeal, said she was relieved by the findings, adding, “I want the council to review its policies so no-one else has to go through this.
“They were very devious, and they didn’t have Dominic’s best interests at heart. They didn’t speak to one person who had dealt with Dominic, including specialists. I’m very angry about the whole thing because I’m his parent, and I know what is best for him. It’s disgraceful.
“When you have a boy whose life is limited, he should have the best quality of life you can give him.”
Dominic’s happiness and health have since improved as he is having regular hydrotherapy sessions, and is enjoying day care at Oakmere Centre in Potters Bar.
A spokesman for the council said a written apology has been sent to the family, “and we are working with them to provide the support services they need.
“We take the issues identified extremely seriously and, when our practice falls below our expected standards, we look to learn lessons and improve our services.”