West Sussex County Council has paid £1,000 and sent a letter of apology to a man whose disabled brother’s leg was broken while in social care.
Gary Lewis, who has severe physical and learning disabilities, was injured in 2015 while living at the Beech Lodge care home, near Horsham – one of two residents to suffer similar injuries on the same day.
Unhappy with the way the council had looked into the cause of the injuries, Gary’s brother Martyn complained to the Local Government Ombudsman.
The complaint was upheld, with the Ombudsman saying ‘significant flaws’ in the initial investigation had caused ‘significant distress and uncertainty’.
But Martyn called the resulting payment ‘paltry’ and said he didn’t think the apology from chief executive Nathan Elvery was ‘heartfelt’.
The Ombudsman’s report said staff at East Surrey Hospital had been worried that the injuries to Gary and the second man, Matthew Bates, could have been non-accidental and had raised safeguarding alerts with the council.
A number of meetings were held and a police investigation was launched but both enquiries were closed in November 2016 unable to ‘conclusively prove how the injuries occurred’.
Unwilling to leave things at that, Martyn continued to pursue his brother’s case.
He and Matthew’s father Mark spearheaded the campaign group HACA – Harmed in Adult Care Alliance – which is fighting for better adult care across the county.
Such was his doggedness, a council officer branded his complaints ‘unreasonably persistent and vexatious’.
The Ombudsman’s report said: “I consider the council has failed to acknowledge that a major driver of [his] behaviour has been his perception that the council has ‘got away with something’ due to the flawed nature of the original safeguarding investigation.”
As well as the apology and payment, the Ombudsman recommended that a meeting should be held with Gary and Matthew’s families and that evidence should be provided showing how the council had improved its role when it came to safeguarding investigations.
Martyn said: “The [Ombudsman’s] findings are welcomed in that it upheld what I have been claiming all along, namely that West Sussex County Council failed in its duty of care to carry out a proper enquiry.”
A council spokesman said discussions to arrange a meeting were ongoing, adding: “We have accepted the Local Government Ombudsman’s report and we are currently implementing the recommendations.
“These concern how sensitive investigations, usually carried out independently, are best able to involve the families affected.
“The planned meeting with family members will be part of the work to address this issue.”
Sussex Health Care, which runs Beech Lodge, is part of an investigation into nine homes over allegations of a lack of care to 43 people, 13 of whom have since died.
Beech Lodge is one of the nine homes.