South Gloucestershire families needing respite care failed by council

Young boy in blue top smiling and holding his head against the head of a woman, who is also smiling
The Local Government Ombudsman published a public interest report examining the council

Almost a third of families with SEND children needing respite care have been failed by a council, according to a watchdog.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) carried out an investigation into South Gloucestershire Council's services.

It comes as the council admitted 30 households did not receive some or any of their respite care.

The council apologised, accepted the findings and said it is taking urgent action to address the problem.

Respite care allows families of children and young people with specific needs the chance to take a break from their caring responsibilities.

An inquiry was launched by the LGO after the parents of a disabled girl issued a complaint in August. They said the council did not provide respite care for 13 months.

As a result, the watchdog ordered the authority to pay £6,000 compensation after concluding the failings caused "significant physical and emotional consequences" for the child and her family, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

'Sincerely apologise'

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Paul Najsarek said: "For too long, families in South Gloucestershire have been struggling without the vital respite support they need, and the indications we have from the council suggest for many there is no sign of this improving in the near future.

"While we recognise the difficulties the council is having finding appropriate support locally, it should not have taken a complaint to us to spur them into more effective action.

"Statutory guidance is clear - if a council is satisfied it is necessary to provide support services then it must provide them and have the provision in place to do so.

"I am pleased the council is working towards improving its breadth of provision and hope the rigorous local oversight it has now agreed to implement will ensure this work is not allowed to drift."

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: "We sincerely apologise for the shortcomings in the service we've been able to provide to these young people and their families. We also fully accept the findings and recommendations of the ombudsman.

"Since the ombudsman carried out its investigation, we have been able to provide support to more families, to either fully or partially deliver the respite care and positive experiences needed for their children.

"We are not yet able to fully deliver for all of our families, however, and we have an action plan in place that will be discussed at cabinet level next month, to help to address the outstanding issues and enable us to meet our commitments."

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