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Vulnerable people in Norfolk caught in care check backlog

PUBLISHED: 14:09 04 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:30 04 March 2019

Norfolk County Council has a backlog of care checks for deprivation of liberty. Pic: Neil Perry.

Norfolk County Council has a backlog of care checks for deprivation of liberty. Pic: Neil Perry.

Archant

More than 150 of some of the most vulnerable people who are in care in Norfolk have not been assessed to see if the deprivation of their liberty is legal.

Mike Sands, Labour county councillor for Bowthorpe. Pic: Archant Library.Mike Sands, Labour county councillor for Bowthorpe. Pic: Archant Library.

Following a legal ruling in 2014, known as the Cheshire West Case, Norfolk County Council should review if deprivation of liberty is justifiable.

A person is considered to have been deprived of liberty if they are unable to consent to their care and treatment arrangements, are under continuous supervision and control and are not free to leave.

Examples of situations which may constitute deprivation of liberty include staff having complete control over a patient’s care or movements for a long period and staff deciding whether a patient can be released into the care of others or to live elsewhere.

The law says people should only be deprived of their liberty when it is in the best interests of the person and there is no other way to look after them.

The local authority – in the case of Norfolk, the county council – has a responsibility to assess if that is the case, but, as was the case with other councils nationally, a backlog built up after the landmark decision.

The council has managed to reduce the number of high priority cases not been done to 157 from the 222 such cases in 2016. But 3,333 lower priority cases have not been assessed.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the council’s adult social care committee today. It has been given a red risk rating by the council, with officers warning it could lead to the authority being judicially reviewed.

Labour councillor Mike Sands said there was no chance of reducing the backlog without help from the government. Officers said they had recruited more staff to try to reduce the backlog and lobbying continues.

A Norfolk County Council spokeswoman said: “We have reduced the number of cases outstanding in the past year and we always check priority cases to ensure that a situation is safe for our service users.

“The government has acknowledged that the current national situation is not ideal and Norfolk County Council looks forward to the proposed changes to the national legislation through the Mental Capacity Act (Reform) Bill.

“This should address the overall situation by making the processes clearer and more straightforward.”

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