Care home in human rights breach after resident was regularly sedated without consent for months

A care home resident with learning disabilities received “unfavourable and unsafe” care when he was regularly sedated for seven months in breach of his human rights, an Ombudsman has said.

The case was cited by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in a report highlighting where people’s basic rights have been infringed by their local authority.

In the past year, the watchdog carried out 103 investigations where the Equality Act was a significant aspect, and a further 51 where there were human rights implications.

It said councils must treat the people they serve with fairness, respect and dignity.

It highlighted the case of a resident of a care home run by a care provider but commissioned and funded by the council, whose parents complained that he was “excessively and unnecessarily given sleeping tablets” without his or their consent.

The care provider had responded to the initial concerns saying his GP had prescribed the medication to take “when needed”, but it had directed staff to give it every other night to sedate him, it said.

The Ombudsman said the resident received “unfavourable and unsafe treatment, which was because of his learning disabilities”, impacting his right to a private life, and the council failed to take account of his human rights when it provided this care.

But it said there was evidence of good practice, with the council starting a safeguarding investigation and contacting the care regulator, which led to improvements in the way the care home treated adults with disabilities, and in the way it responded to complaints.

The council also agreed to make a payment to the family in recognition of the “avoidable distress” they were caused.

Another case involved a family of seven who remained in a one-bedroom flat for more than a year because the local council did not properly identify overcrowding and find alternative accommodation.

According to the report, the father approached the council after receiving an eviction notice, but it twice failed to conclude that it was unreasonable for him, his wife and the five children to continue living in the flat due to overcrowding.

The council attempted to find a four-bedroom property but the family remained in the flat for a year, with the children forced to sleep in the hall and kitchen, the Ombudsman said.

When the father complained, the council provided interim accommodation.

The Ombudsman said the local authority failed to consider whether the family’s housing conditions enabled them to enjoy a family life and home, under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The council agreed to apologise and pay the family £6,000 for the impact of living in overcrowded conditions for so long.

Other examples highlighted in the report include:

– A woman who required help going to the toilet and was left “saturated in urine and faeces overnight” after her council assessed she did not need overnight social care and told her to use incontinence pads.

– A schoolgirl with epilepsy who was left without suitable transport between school and overnight respite care, and emergency rescue medicine for use on school transport.

– A single mother fleeing domestic abuse who was given discretionary housing payments (DHPs) from the council as the benefit cap meant she did not have enough income to pay her rent. She received DHPs for nine months. When she applied for help again, while pregnant and caring for a baby under one, the council refused and said she should look for work.

Ombudsman Michael King said: “People all too often think of ‘Human Rights’ with capital letters and in grand terms, but the basic expectations of how anyone should be treated – with fairness, respect and dignity – are just as applicable for people in their everyday lives as they are when major international events occur.

“We all have a right to expect these basic standards when we use public services. I want to raise people’s awareness about those rights, so people can more easily recognise when their basic rights and freedoms have been neglected.

“And I urge councils to take a rights-based mindset when developing their services and making day-to-day decisions on how they are delivered.”

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “This report, along with the case studies are both helpful and measured.

“They will be helpful to councils in considering how they can ensure that fairness, respect dignity and equality are at the heart of all that they do.”

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