The Johnny Depp -v- News Group Newspapers trial concluded last week and has been widely publicised and reported on around the World.
Due to his conditions, he has limited communication skills, does not have an awareness of risk – such as road safety – and experiences occasional seizures. He is also unable to make decisions about his residence, care or personal matters. Until the age of 16, he attended a specialist school, followed by a residential specialist college, from which he went to his family home during the holidays.
S’ immediate family were his mother, father and younger sister. When he was at home, S was entirely dependent on his family members. S’ sister also had health problems that needed to be managed by their parents; they reported that because of this, they would be unable to provide the necessary support within their family home following S finishing college. They requested that an appropriate residential placement should be found for S within the locality of the West Midlands.
During the final term at college, Birmingham City Council assessed S’ needs in order to put together a care package and decide upon his future residence. Both were intended to come into effect at the end of the two-year college placement.
The assessment found that S was able to manage his own personal care, but he needed support with aspects of guidance in areas such as showering, dressing, choosing appropriate food and drink, organising daily routines and avoiding potential hazards. Based upon these findings, the initial decision was agreed - that a residential placement was required. However, following the ending of the college course, S’ parents had not received any communication to confirm the decision or details of the placement. S, therefore, moved back to his family home. The family then encountered difficulties with changes in the allocated social worker.
Following the family’s communication with the local authority breaking down, they decided to instruct us to help them to get the support they needed. Having reviewed the assessment plans and correspondence, we wrote to the local authority to highlight the discrepancies and failings in their actions and the information provided.
Initially, our involvement resulted in the local authority offering that an enablement team would work with S at home. The purpose of this was to “enable” S to be independent with his needs. The family accepted this, but on our recommendations they kept this under close review by requesting meetings with the local authority and keeping a diary. This continued for a period of six months, and throughout that time we maintained communication with the local authority to request progress. Our persistence resulted in the local authority agreeing that the enablement put in place at the family home did not meet S’ needs. We were then able to negotiate funding for an appropriate residential placement for S.
The resulting comment of S’ mother, was that she felt by having instructed us our involvement “helped to kick start the whole process”. In our experience, without raising issues, which includes taking legal advice, the transition period between ending a full-time education/college placement to a long-term placement can be delayed due to local authorities failing to follow through on assessments and funding decisions. When people do not understand the process of their rights, they will often just carry on as they are. We work with families to ensure their needs are met, using our experience and knowledge to drive things forward.
If you would like more information about the issues discussed in the article, please contact Sarah Huntbach.
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