Distress As Daughter Is Sent To Southampton For Care

A mother from Witney in Oxfordshire is distressed that her mentally ill 18-year-old daughter is to be cared for more than 60 miles away in Southampton. Lesley Sykes, of Blakes Avenue, is upset that her daughter Victoria Plowman who, she says, has a mental age of five, cannot be cared for in Oxfordshire. Victoria, who has learning and behaviour difficulties and delayed speech, went into care in March and was taken to a home in Colchester, Essex.

Mrs Sykes had hoped social services would be able to find a place to care for Victoria near her home in Witney, but she has now discovered she will be moved to Southampton. Social services has said there are no vacancies for suitable residential care in Oxfordshire, and Southampton has the nearest appropriate place.

But Mrs Sykes claims she was told by a social worker that Victoria could not be cared for in the county because of cost. She said: “In Victoria’s mind, she is still a young girl and she wants her mummy. Since she has been in Essex, I’ve only been able to see her once a month. It’s a two-and-half hour drive and it’s expensive as we stay in a travel lodge overnight. She cries and cries for her mummy and I can’t get to her. We’re very close. We’re like peas in a pod. I want to be able to see her and social services encourage that. I went to look at a place in Steeple Aston that was willing to take Victoria, but the social worker told me it can’t be done because of cost. It’s £600 a week there.”

Victoria lived with her mother until she was 14 when Mrs Sykes could no longer cope with her. Mrs Sykes said: “She’s very violent and strong. I struggled with her and couldn’t cope any more. The child and adolescent services looked after her in Oxford, but they couldn’t really cope. When she turned 18, she went to adult services in Carterton. But she smashed the home up and so they sectioned her and sent her to Essex.”

Paul Purnell, the county council’s head of social care for adults, said: “We would very much like to find Victoria a placement in Oxfordshire, and when a vacancy arises with a suitable provider, we will review the situation. Our policy is to provide care for our service users within Oxfordshire wherever possible. However, the residential home we have found for Victoria in Southampton has an excellent reputation in the care sector and had a very good report from the Government’s Commission for Social Care Inspection following an unannounced visit at the end of last year.

“Managers there have also assured us they will facilitate regular visits home for Victoria in order to reduce the amount of travelling for Mrs Sykes. Our primary concern is to ensure that Victoria is healthy, happy and safe. Cost is only one factor we take into account when choosing a provider and only becomes relevant when more than one provider with vacancies can meet the needs of the service user. It is our view that there are no care providers with vacancies in Oxfordshire – including the provider Mrs Sykes refers to – able to give Victoria the care she requires to meet her very particular complex and challenging needs.

“Victoria was in fact placed within Oxfordshire earlier this year, but unfortunately that placement broke down after six weeks. We are very anxious to ensure that her next placement is a successful one.”