Hughes case uncovered catalogue of errors by social services

A SERIOUS case review into a severely disabled Redditch man’s care prior to his death has revealed a catalogue of errors made by social workers.

Vulnerable 21-year-old James Hughes’ body was found decomposed in a suitcase at his family home in April last year. His mother Helen Wardle had been found hanged two days previously.

The independent review on behalf of Worcestershire Safeguarding Adults Committee said those responsible for his health and social care as an adult “gradually lost touch with him”.

At the inquest into the death of James, who had the mental age of a toddler and suffered from epilepsy, the coroner heard social workers had no contact with him for two years before his death and recorded an open verdict.

The damning report, which refers to James as ‘X’, lists a number of concerns including that the Learning Development Team had not appeared to have carried out a review of his needs since October 2005. This was in breach of statutory guidance.

Social workers had relied only on his mother for reports on James which the official report said fell below standards of assessment and review of his needs.

His mother had not been informed of her right to request a carers’ assessment and it also found James had also not been seen by his GP for a review of some of his medication since 2004.

The report concluded it was unlikely any of the concerns identified had a direct impact on the tragic outcome, however “opportunities were lost for picking up any concern”.

Eddie Clarke, chairman of the multi-agency Safeguarding Adults Committee, said improvements would be made including disciplinary procedures, along with revised training and guidance for front-line managers and staff.

The Primary Care Trust had also provided GPs with recommendations to improve care for vulnerable people with learning disabilities.

Mr Clarke added: “While no-one person, action or lack of action directly contributed to the death of James, or his mother, we have concluded that a combination of factors across the organisations involved meant that when James stopped attending services, the response fell below the standards we wish to provide for those receiving care.”