No respite: 47 families in Northamptonshire going without the support they are entitled to
After a provider was placed by regulators into special measures Northamptonshire Children's Trust has left some families without respite care
Sign up to NN Journal to receive free quality journalism about Northamptonshire
By Sarah Ward
Almost 50 families in Northamptonshire are going without the respite care they should have because the new children’s trust is unable to provide the service.
Families are being asked by Northamptonshire Children’s Trust (NCT)* to make their own arrangements for respite care as the organisation, which now looks after children’s services for both the unitary councils, is experiencing difficulties after a key provider had its service placed into special measures.
Single parent Juliet Stacey has been without the usual respite for her son Dominic, 12, since October. She is entitled to five hours a week and 15 hours in the school holiday weeks for Dominic who has global development delay, autism and attention deficit disorder.
On October 8 last year she was called by her social worker and told the trust had cancelled the contract with Dominic’s respite provider DMC Signature Care Ltd.
“I had a message to say the agency they had been using had cancelled the contract with them because there were safeguarding issues and they were going to look for other care for him,” she says.
“But nothing has been done.”
Juliet says she has corresponded with a manager within the service to complain but the respite Dominic is entitled to through his Educational Health Care plan has not been re-instated. She says she has been asked to sort out respite for him through the direct payments system which would see the trust pay someone directly to provide support for Dominic.
“There is nobody I know who could do direct payments. Dominic needs two on one supervision and he likes to throw things.”
Juliet, who lives with Dominic and older sister in Kettering, says she has had no help with Dominic through an extended October half term and Christmas break and (the school he attends had a two week rather than one week half term due to Covid) and there have also been periods he has been off school due to Covid outbreaks. Another respite provider that looks after Dominic on a fortnightly basis has also often let the family down due to staffing issues. Juliet now feels like she has been ‘lost in the system’.
“We have had no respite for 13 weeks” she says. “It is having an impact on Dominic and his sister, as she helps me care for Dominic and we have no time alone together.
“We have to be with him as we don’t know what he is going to do.”
When contacted by NN Journal NCT said: “We are currently exploring all options and have ensured that Dominic is high priority.
“There are 47 families that we are seeking provision for. Our social workers are working with all of these families to identify suitable, alternative support. All families have been given the option of utilising a direct payment instead of a care provider. This means if they have anyone within their own family or wider network or perhaps someone from another setting that their child accesses, such as school or a club, they may be able to work with them via Direct Payments.
It continued: “Current difficulties have arisen as a result of Northamptonshire Children’s Trust making the decision to cease packages of care with an organisation within which significant concerns had arisen, as confirmed by a CQC inspection, alongside a national crisis in the care sector, the impact of Covid which is affecting the availability, recruitment and retention of carers. We are working with Juliet to explore all options available.”
By not providing respite care the trust, which receives its funding from the unitary authorities, will be saving money. In its first year it is predicting it will come in on budget, although a full public report is still unavailable about how the trust, which is run by Colin Foster has operated in its first twelve months since starting up on government orders in November 2020.
DMC Signature based on Moulton Park Business Centre in Northampton was being used by the trust as a respite provider.
An inspection in October by regulator the Care Quality Commission after it had been tipped off about staff concerns found the organisation was providing inadequate care and placed it into special measures. The CQC report says there was ‘widespread and significant shortfalls in service leadership’ and inspectors found some staff had been using false documentation and were not the person they said they were and police also seized a vehicle being used by the company as it was unroadworthy.
It also said there were many hazards within its building for children which had not been risk assessed.
DMC Sigantur Care’s owner Catherine Furey, who is qualified social worker, told NN Journal that Covid had impacted her businesses, which caused staffing issues, with some staff leaving due to bereavement or having to self isolate. She said new processes involving Home Office checking of staff documents had now been implemented and she was working with the trust to make improvements. She hoped to regain her contracts in the future.
*In an earlier version of this article we incorrectly called the new trust Children First.
January Sale: Our local journalism is entirely paid for by our members and so if you would like to support us please boost your membership here. For less than £5 per month you will receive five original weekday articles each week