After a three-year-long battle, a Warwick couple have won justice for their severely disabled daughter who was entitled to care in a respite home in Leamington.
Mary and Trevor Overton felt they simply could no longer take regular breaks from the 24-hour care of their adored daughter, Kellie, because it meant men would have to look after her most intimate needs.
Last week the Local Government Ombudsman agreed with Mr and Mrs Overton and ordered Warwickshire County Council to apologise to them and award £5,500 in compensation, plus another £1,000 for all the trouble it took to pursue their complaint.
Kellie Overton, aged 36, suffers from the rare Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder which means she cannot speak and is not able to walk anywhere unaccompanied.
Mr and Mrs Overton were entitled to a place in respite care for Kellie, on one weekend every four or five weeks, and also while they took an annual family holiday.
But in May, 2010, Warwickshire County Council awarded the contract for running the Valley Road respite home in Leamington to the Nuneaton-based private providers Ingleby Care.
In February, 2011, many of the care staff left leaving Ingleby to rely on outside agency staff, a higher proportion of which were men, rather than women, leaving not only Mr and Mrs Overton but other families with concerns.
Mrs Overton said: “How could we leave Kellie there with two agency men and only one woman on the staff to look after her most personal needs and those of all the others?
“It robbed Kellie of all her dignity and she had no way of telling us what was happening?”
“Managers kept leaving; others told us the male agency workers were just there as an emergency but we believe that was just a convenient excuse. There were never enough female staff on the rotas.
“We also complained to the county council and when we got nowhere decided to take the matter to the Ombudsman.”
Ingleby Care, now owned by Coventry-based Voyage Care, faced compalints not only from Mr and Mrs Overton but five other families.
Voyage Care took over Ingleby in 2012 and were allowed to continue until last month.
For three years Mr and Mrs Overton never had a holiday. Finally, they took one last month when the contract for providing care was handed over to the charity, Heart of England Mencap. They are absolutely delighted.
But the couple are still upset that Warwickshire County Council did not prominently announce the ruling by Dr Jane Martin, the Local Government Ombudsman, in the Leamington and Warwick Couriers or the Kenilworth Weekly News. Nor on any public noticeboard at Shire Hall.
Instead the announcement was made in the Coventry Telegraph and its Warwickshire edition and is only available on request at Shire Hall.
As well as compensation, the Ombudsman recommended county managers review their advice on employing care staff of a specific sex.
Dr Martin said: “Warwickshire County Council has not provided an adequate respite for this family for a significant period of time. The couple’s reasonable request that their daughter’s intimate care was only carried out by female carers was made to minimise any potential risk to their daughter and to protect her dignity
“As a result the family did not feel confident the council could protect their daughter and so missed vital opportunities to go away on holiday or simply have a break from their caring responsibilities.”
On Tuesday a council spokeswoman accepted Kellie’s need for guaranteed female care and said they had provided notice in the Telegraph’s city and county editions.
She added: “We unreservedly apologise for the historic complaints upheld by the Ombudsman, many of which the council has already addressed in prior communication with the family. We will continue to work with them to support them and listen to their views on how we can continue to improve services.”