Page last updated at 08:22 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Anger over ban on vulnerable man

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Terry Lawrence's family talk about the effects of the situation

A council has apologised for its treatment of a "vulnerable" man with learning difficulties who was given a lengthy ban from day care centres.

Terry Lawrence suffered "grave injustice" from Vale of Glamorgan council, and his MP called it the most disturbing watchdog report he had read.

Mr Lawrence was barred from council centres for two-and-a-half years after a dispute between staff and his family.

The council said sorry, and will pay him and his family 4,000 compensation.

The council was heavily criticised in a report by Peter Tyndall, the public services ombudsman for Wales.

I want a guarantee that nothing like this could ever be repeated again
John Smith MP
Mr Lawrence's father Ken said after the suspension his son had no purpose or direction in his life.

"He was taken away from all his peer group, all his friends that he was in school with and he virtually used to stay in bed until midday because he didn't have anything else to do," said Mr Lawrence.

Vale of Glamorgan MP John Smith said he was "very dismayed" by the report and called for a full inquiry.

"This is probably the most disturbing ombudsman's report I've ever read in all my time as a Member of Parliament or indeed the years before that in local government. This is very, very serious indeed.

"I want a guarantee that nothing like this could ever be repeated again, either against vulnerable adults as in this case, or children, or anybody else who social services in my constituency are responsible for."

In August 2005, the manager of day care services excluded Mr Lawrence from the centres following two incidents, including one where Mr Lawrence accused a council officer of pushing him.

The ombudsman found maladministration in the council's investigation of these incidents.

We have now put in place an action plan to address all the identified shortcomings
John Maitland Evans, Vale of Glamorgan council chief executive

The report said an investigation into the reasons why Mr Lawrence had been suspended from the day centres had not been carried out properly and that a meeting had failed to reach a "robust conclusion" based on impartial evidence.

When his father complained to the council, the report found proper complaint procedures were not followed.

The reason for Mr Lawrence's exclusion was an apparent risk from his family based on "hearsay", the report found.

Following an independent investigation, a new assessment of Mr Lawrence's needs in March 2007 said he should be reinstated immediately to one of the day centres, but this did not happen.

He was allowed to return only in March 2008.

The ombudsman recommended the council pay 3,000 to Mr Lawrence and a further 1,000 to his parents in recognition of the work his family had gone to to care for him during the two-and-a-half years he had been excluded.

It also said the council should ensure its staff understood the "difference between fact, hearsay and conjecture in the process of decision making" and the importance of documenting decisions and the reasons behind them.

Mr Tyndall said it was vital the council looked very long and hard at how it was managing the service.

'Anxiety and stress'

"They must make sure their management is effective and they must remember to keep service users at the heart of their consideration," he said.

"The acid test for me will be to see if we get further complaints of this kind coming in.

"They did have the steps in place but they didn't implement them. We now need to see that the implementation is effective."

The chief executive of Vale of Glamorgan council, John Maitland Evans, apologised to the family for the "anxiety and stress" the matter caused them.

"The council regrets that, in this instance, the level of service fell below what would have been reasonably expected and has accepted all the ombudsman's recommendations," he said.

"We have now put in place an action plan to address all the identified shortcomings."

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