OAP left in care of mentally-ill niece – social workers criticised

SOCIAL workers have been criticised for leaving a frail 87-year-old in the care of her mentally-ill niece. The family of Elizabeth Jackson say she was badly let down by the authorities.

And a coroner agreed it was ‘incredible’ that the system meant nothing could be done to help the pensioner.

Mrs Jackson died after being admitted to hospital with a severe head injury, bruises all over her body, a broken nose and a pressure sore on her lower back.

Nursing staff described her as malnourished and expressed alarm that heavy make-up had been used to cover up bruising on her face.

She was unconscious when she was admitted to hospital after a blow to the head and died from bronchial pneumonia caused by a severe haemorrhage. But how she sustained the injuries remains a mystery.

The pensioner, who once worked for Johnson’s Pottery and Rolls-Royce, was being cared for in her home at Ford Green Road, Norton, by her niece Susan Murray, who had a history of mental health problems and was sectioned on one occasion.

A two-day inquest into her death heard neighbours had repeatedly contacted the police and social services after witnessing Mrs Murray displaying bizarre behaviour including shouting and screaming at night, lying down in the middle of Ford Green Road and wandering around in her nightgown.

Both Mrs Murray and her husband Stanley were arrested by police in connection with Mrs Jackson’s death.

But the Crown Prosecution Service decided it did not have enough evidence for a criminal prosecution. A senior member of staff at Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s social services department admitted more should have been done to support Mrs Murray.

But Avril Frankish, strategic manager for safeguarding and innovation, said the service’s hands were tied as Mrs Jackson insisted she did not want any help from social workers.

Paul Diss – Mrs Jackson’s nephew and Mrs Murray’s cousin – said he would have intervened had he been made aware of the situation.

Mr Diss, from Surrey, said: “I think if you asked most members of the British public, they would think it is amazing that this was allowed to happen.”

He told Mrs Frankish: “You are meant to look after people, not slavishly follow guidance from government.”

Coroner Ian Smith asked Mrs Frankish: “How many times do you have to be told there is a problem before you decide you must do something?”

But she said as Mrs Jackson was deemed mentally capable it was her choice to remain in a situation, even if it was likely to cause her harm.

Mr Smith recorded an open verdict into Mrs Jackson’s death, which happened on July 24 2008.

He said he had considered recording a verdict of unlawful killing because he was unsatisfied with Mrs Murray’s account of how her aunt was hurt.

But he said there was not enough evidence for either a verdict of unlawful killing or one of accidental death.

He said: “Mrs Murray herself wasn’t competent to deal with an elderly lady who was clearly failing in health.

“Mrs Jackson was in need of far more professional and specialist help than Mrs Murray was able to give.”