Doncaster Council promise system overhaul after they ‘failed’ family of severely disabled boy

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Doncaster Council bosses have promised an overhaul of the way they handle care assessments and housing adaptation requests after they ‘failed’ the family of a severely disabled child.

Mum Hayley Swinson-Jones, aged 35, from Thorne, complained to the Local Government Ombudsman after the council refused to adapt her home for her eight-year-old son Joel.

Joel Robinson suffers a host of health problems including a rare genetic condition, cerebral palsy and epilepsy and is doubly incontinent and cannot walk or move by himself.

Ms Swinson-Jones, who is a full-time carer for her son, has been battling the council for four years to get adaptations to the home and suffers from back pain having to move Joel without a hoist.

The findings of the investigation were presented to cabinet members on Doncaster Council who asked bosses in charge what could be done to prevent this happening in future.

Damien Allen, the lead council officer in charge of children’s services, told the meeting work was underway to fully adapt the home and £1,500 has been provided to the family for a holiday and a respite break.

He added the council has met and apologised to the family and sent a formal apology admitting their failures.

Mrs Swinson-Jones was living in a privately rented house riddled with damp when her family was first assessed by the council in 2014.

The family were finally moved into a council property in August 2017 – which Mrs Swinson-Jones and her new husband Richard felt forced to accept despite it being unsuitable because they were evicted by their landlord.

Joel slept in the dining room which is too small for his specially-adapted bed, to have a hoist installed or store his medical equipment. The bathroom facilities were also inadequate.

The mum-of-three said she was ‘fobbed off’ by the council and then was told they couldn’t have adaptations because they ‘didn’t have a five-year tenancy’.

Addressing the meeting, Damien Allen, director of people said: “I’d like to fully accept the council ombudsman’s conclusion and recommendations.

“The council fell short of its’ expected standards of care and support for this family.

“We’re meeting with other families to review and take their feedback around the improvement process we have initiated as part of the response to the ombudsman’s report.

“We’ve put in place a rapid improvement plan with clear milestones and implemented a new adaptations policy and that includes a new panel process and new members on that panel.

“We now screen all new referrals and make sure we follow them up with the panel and we’re also in the process of looking suitable properties in terms of availability working with St Leger Homes.”

Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones added: “I’m delighted to hear that at least we are picking up and ensuring that we’ve got systems in place that are fit for purpose and actually will hopefully prevent things like this from occurring from today and now on.

“We hope we always continue to reassess our systems as well so that no one falls between two different systems, two different department so we can look after not only our young people but transitions through to adulthood.”