Autistic pensioner who ate dog food among complaints upheld against Yorkshire council

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has released its annual summary of complaints against East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Credit: LDRS

An autistic pensioner living off dog food after his benefits stopped was denied emergency financial support by a county council.

The complaint was among 14 upheld against East Riding of Yorkshire Council by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in the year up to March.

Paul Najsarek from the ombudsman said all councils needed to focus on learning from their faults to make things better for those experiencing harsh realities.

A council spokesperson said the authority took all complaints seriously and took necessary action to address them, though the amount the ombudsman investigated was relatively small.

A summary of the pensioner's complaint said that the autistic man was unable to afford food or pay his bills and had been eating dog food when he called the council for help.

The ombudsman ruled the man’s autism was not taken into account during the call which ended after he was told his personal independence payments (PIP) meant he had an income.

The council agreed to apologise and said it would consider a new application from the man and back date support payments and would look at service improvements.

Other complaints upheld against East Riding council included one where it did not completing a safeguarding investigation - into a nursing home accused of not feeding a woman with dementia properly - on time.

It also found the nursing home itself failed to keep proper records about his mother’s diet after she moved there due to her advanced dementia.

The son of the woman alleged this was a factor in her death.

The council and the nursing home both agreed to acknowledge their failings and apologise to the man.

The ombudsman also found the council left a couple unable to enjoy their home life after failing to address reports of antisocial behaviour.

It ruled the council did not handle the complaint about the couple’s noisy neighbour properly and the authority was told to apologise to them.

The ombudsman’s annual summary of complaints made against the council showed the 14 upheld complaints were out of a total of 19 which were investigated.

The summary found the council’s responses to be satisfactory in all cases, though only one had been provided before the complaint reached the ombudsman.

Mr Najsarek said the ombudsman was aware councils are facing huge challenges, so getting the basics right is more important than ever.

“We all want decent education services for our children, quality care for our loved ones when they are in need, and the reassurance of a safety net if we fall on hard times but all too often the complaints we receive show this isn’t what people experience," he said.

“Although local authorities often get things right, we frequently find councils repeating the same mistakes, ploughing ahead and not taking a step back to see the bigger picture.

“Our latest statistics shed light on the harsh realities people across the country face in crucial aspects of their lives. Council leaders now need to focus on learning from common faults and injustices so they can make a significant difference to the people our local authorities serve.”

East Riding council’s spokesperson said: “We aim to deliver high quality services to residents and so we take any complaint seriously and take necessary action.

“The council has acted upon the recommendations in all 14 cases upheld by the ombudsman.

“The ombudsman is satisfied that the council has complied with, and successfully implemented, its recommendations in all cases.

“We have also considered what lessons can be learned and where any service improvements can be made.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...