Council apology accepted by Milton Keynes dad after ‘nightmare’ battle for care for severely autistic son

A Milton Keynes dad is beginning the long process of rebuilding trust with the council after a lockdown battle for care for his severely autistic son.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 6:23 pm

Watchdog the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has found MK Council at fault for telling Paul Ridley, 55, that it would be able to reinstate his son Keith’s pre-covid-19 respite care when it was not possible.

Watchdogs at the LGO could not find fault with the council for failing to reinstate Keith’s routine during the first lockdown, when public services across the city were having to rapidly adapt.

But the LGO says the council was at fault for telling Mr Ridley that it would reinstate respite services when it could not.

Paul and Keith Ridley

“That was not just an “impression” but a commitment,” the LGO found.

“This resulted in a loss of trust when the council told Mr Ridley it could not do this, which is an injustice.”

The council has apologised.

Keith, 32, is so severely disabled with a learning disability, autism and epilepsy that he needs 1:1 support indoors and 2:1 support when accessing the community. Any small change in his daily routines throws the family into turmoil.

Having visits to the day care centre at Tower Drive and respire care at Mathieson Road suddenly stop last March without any replacement caused a “nightmare” of depression and weight loss for Keith who plunged to just seven and a half stone.

The LGO report, which looked at the first lockdown, reveals a series of changes in care as the council tried to find solutions. This unintentionally kept the family stressed.

For dad Paul, 55, who is married to Sarah, 55, it meant that he lost weight too. “My wedding ring kept slipping off my finger,” he said.

“All we were looking for was an apology at the start and for someone to pick up the phone and ask us before changing Keith’s care,” said Paul who stressed that he has found front line care staff from the council to be “excellent.”

“It has been a nightmare that we wouldn’t wish on our enemies,” said Paul who says Keith is now settling down to being himself again.

“We are now trying to build trust as we are going in the right direction,” said Paul. “It is going to take a long time but we have been told that Keith will be going back to a five day care package when we come out of covid.”

A spokesman for Milton Keynes Council said: “We recognise that it’s a very difficult time for carers, particularly as the services they rely on have been heavily impacted by current restrictions.

“An incorrect message was communicated to the Ridley family and we apologise for the anxiety this caused.

“We have since improved the clarity of our communication over the current impact on our care services.”

Many of the council’s adult care services are still affected by the lockdown and it says it is reviewing its position on a “regular basis.”