Sunday 4 November 2012

Council apologise to parents of autistic girl - updated

Update 13th November;
The Western Mail has reported on Dr Rowan Wilson's fitness to practice hearing before the General Medical Council this week. Dr Wilson was appointed by Carmarthenshire Council to provide an initial assessment of the girl's capacity, he has admitted he had no knowledge of Facilitated Communication (FC), nor it's profound limitations.
He also failed to consider the discrepancy between the girl's autism and her apparent language fluency using FC.
The article provides some more detail of the appalling events including the mother's suggestion that the allegations were made after the family fell out with the care workers, sub-contracted by Carmarthenshire Council to provide 29 hours per week of respite care. She gave her daughter £10 a day for lunch and it was after she queried why the care workers didn't provide receipts that the allegations were made.

The Western Mail article is here


Another serious complaint to the Ombudsman against Carmarthenshire Council has been upheld. It concerns the Adult Social Care Department of the Council.

The report, from August 2012, although available on request from the Ombudsman's website, has not been generally published. Welsh language magazine, Golwg carried an article last week about the report and, as certain legal matters relating to this case are still ongoing, I am merely providing an English translation without further comment, apart from a small section at the end;

The Council has had to apologize to the parents of an autistic girl who was taken from them to a care home for six months.

The order was made ​​following an investigation by the Ombudsman. According to his report into the case, the parents of the girl, aged 21, had suffered "significant injustice" and ordered the council to pay £1200 "in recognition of the injustice" and £250 for the time and trouble to complain about the case.

Golwg understands that the parents are taking legal action against the council so they do not want to speak publicly at this time.

The Ombudsman's report, which includes the statement that "the council could have done better in making a communication plan with the family earlier ..." will be discussed in due course.
The council insists that lessons have been learned and have acted on the recommendations of the Ombudsman.

According to the complaint to the Ombudsman, staff from the company who were working with the girl said that she had made serious allegations. The information was then transferred to the county council's social services department in October 2010.

Although the father says that the allegations were malicious, he accepted that they had to be investigated, and that the council must follow the policy to protect vulnerable adults.  As the police become involved, the parents were arrested two weeks after the girl was moved to a care home.

Cllr Sian Caiach, who has supported the family for the past two years said;

"This very vulnerable young woman spent almost 6 months confined in a care home against her will, unable to understand what had happened to her parents who had cared for her all her life and were not there any more. Her mother and father were beside themselves with worry and accused of terrible crimes. These are times of austerity but the private carers provided for "H" with public money were clearly not only poorly prepared for their task in training and experience, but dangerous. They very nearly destroyed three people's lives. The story is a catastrophe caused by several errors but the main one was skimping on the quality of care for "H" to start with."

The family and carers used the facilitated communication method for people who have difficulty speaking. This means that they help her to communicate by pointing to cards with letters on them. But some experts argue that the helpers can influence what is being said.

Although the ombudsman's report acknowledges that the council "has faced an extremely difficult case" it also noted that this method of communicating was "unreliable" and that "several of the council officers should have realized sooner that the facilitated communication method is very doubtful,

"this would have led to a reassessment of the capacity of H (the young woman) much earlier, and as a result the outcome would be different. The likelihood is that H would have returned home two months earlier. This represents a significant injustice to Mr and Mrs "J" (the parents) "
The council had reached the wrong conclusions about the woman's ability to make decisions, and it was a terrible experience, almost destroying the lives of family - the girl and her parents.

In a statement to Golwg, a Council spokesman said;

"This has been a very difficult and complex case. The council has accepted the findings of the Ombudsman’s report and has complied with the recommendations made. This has been a highly unusual case, and one from which lessons have been learned by all the professionals concerned In particular, those aspects relating to the decision making process in relation to capacity, facilitated communication and communicating with the family."

With regard to Facilitated Communication, despite early warnings to the Council that this was a very unreliable measure of either mental capacity or evidence of abuse, it was not until a respected expert in capacity assessment carried out tests under laboratory conditions, did it become clear that H's responses were being led by the facilitators.


In the mid-1990's the American Psychological Association reported on the failings of Facilitated Communication. In 2001 Dame Butler-Sloss issued a judgement in the case of Re D (Evidence;Facilitated Communication) [2001] 1 FLR 148 and commented that the method was "dangerous" and "had no more scientific validity than a Ouija board".

She went on to say that the technique should not be used in courts to back up or dismiss claims of abuse, "Facilitated Communication may be viewed with the greatest possible caution unless further evidence is would be wise that the courts should pay the greatest possible attention to the advice of the American Psychological Association that information obtained by facilitated communication should not be used to confirm allegation of abuse"


Delyth Jenkins said...


I contributed to a phone-in on radio Kent this morning about the treatment of whistlblowers, and I would be grateful if you could include the link on your blog.

Eileen Chubb, the founder of Compassion in care was in the studio to speak about her charity and her own experiences as a whistleblower. Eileen is a remarkable lady and her enthusiasm to help others is inspirational.
Eileen and others are campaigning to change the law to protect whistleblowers.
At the moment the law seems to favour the perpetrators whilst the victims (whistleblowers) are treated as troublemakers. The campaign for Edna's law is a law written by whistleblowers to protect whistleblowers and puts right what is so wrong about the law as it stands. The whistleblowing policy failed to protect me and it gives out the message that abuse is tolerated if the Managers who failed to protect the vulnerable from abuse are not held to account. I would ask the readers of your blog to access Eileen's website, Compassion in Care and leave their support and comments if they so wish to what will be a life saving law.

Thank you

caebrwyn said...

Thank you Delyth. Here's a link to the BBC Radio Kent programme on iPlayer, the section on whistleblowing starts 1 hour 7 minutes in;

Delyth Jenkins said...

Many thanks

Delyth Jenkins said...

This latest Ombudsman's report concerning Carmarthenshire County Council's Social Care department is the third upheld within as many years. What is going on here?

caebrwyn said...

Indeed Delyth, what's going on.

Delyth Jenkins said...

This is why I was so appalled when officers of Carmarthenshire County Council were given a second chance following the publication of the Ombudsman's report in Sept 2009 and some were even promoted. I was accused by one senior Officer of becoming obsessed with the complaint but it's obvious why they wanted me to go away. Will it take serious injury or worse before someone intervenes?