The mother of one of two disabled men given less than a week to leave their shared accommodation has spoken of her hope for his future now that he has been allowed to stay.
Matthew Ball spent last weekend at his home of nine years in Chorley, unaware of how close he came to having to move out just days earlier.
As the local democracy reporting service revealed last week, a round-the-clock care package provided to 29-year-old Matthew and his housemate, Stuart Richardson, was suddenly set to be halted by the charity United Response last Friday.
Lancashire County Council was given just seven days’ notice of the organisation’s intention to stop supporting the two men – as part of longer term plans to end its contract with the authority, under which it delivers care to 59 disabled adults across the county.
But County Hall’s social care bosses brokered a last-minute deal with the charity to help them continue providing the service to Matthew and Stuart until 8th May – with the council pledging to have another care provider in place by that date. Existing United Response staff could then be given the option of transferring to the new company.
Matthew’s mum, Glenda, says she is pleased that her son – who suffers from the rare Angelman Syndrome – has been spared an upheaval which would have been difficult for him to deal with.
“His understanding is quite toddler-like, but he does take in quite a lot. That’s why we said he was going on a little holiday when we thought he would have to move out.
“Now we’ve told him he’s not going away, because his carers still want to look after him. I just hope he doesn’t realise exactly what has been going on, because it’s not been good.
“But I’m grateful the council has really pushed for Matthew’s current care package to continue until something else can be arranged – and I think things are looking positive for him.
“They’ve also helped us to hand-pick any agency staff that have to be used to cover gaps in the rotas – and they can work with the great current set of United Response staff who we hope will come over to the new provider.”
The charity told Lancashire County Council in February that it would be withdrawing its services over a period of between three and six months – but blamed staff shortages for having to stop caring for Matthew and Stuart even sooner.
Graham Gooch, member for adult services at Lancashire County Council, told a cabinet meeting that the authority’s officers should be “commended” for ensuring that the two men could stay in their home.
But in spite of the last-minute reprieve, 27-year-old Stuart’s family- who are from Leyland - have still found him somewhere else to live, because of concerns over the standard of care he received from United Response. The company has said it will investigate “as a matter of urgency” suggestions that his needs were not being met.
Stuart’s family will now receive direct payments from the county council which will enable them to arrange their own carers to look after him at a new property which will be ready for him to move into early next month.
His father, Keith, says that the whole situation has shaken his already fragile faith in the system.
“It’s typical of the way parents of disabled children have to battle for them their entire lives,” he reflects.
Meanwhile, the co-ordinator of the Preston Learning Disability Forum, says the United Response case highlights the need for disabled adults and their families to be made aware that they can request help from an advocacy service when negotiating the complexities of the care system.
“An advocate scrutinises the decisions being made about vulnerable people to see if what is being proposed is in their best interests,” explains Rosemary Trustam.
“People think that because they are getting care, their tenancies must depend on that – but they are usually separate issues.
“It’s about people knowing their rights and being able to speak out – and it’s a great support to people in such stressful situations.”