Lancashire man awarded £200,000 after being 'effectively imprisoned' in a care home for seven years
Lancashire County Council has paid out £200,000 to a man with autism who was kept in a care home against his will for more than seven years.
It comes after the authority settled a Court of Protection case brought by his family who had taken legal action in an attempt to have him returned to them.
The man, from Fylde - and who can be identified only by the initials CHH - was 24 at the time he was moved to the home, where he was under one-to-one supervision for up to 14 hours a day in a property with an alarmed and locked door.
The county council has now accepted that its actions breached his human rights and acknowledged that it “didn’t get everything right” in the case.
CHH’s family instructed solicitors after what they believed was going to be a short-stay placement following an issue at home turned into seven years of him living at the facility – to his and their distress.
During his time there – some 45 minutes away from the family home where he had previously lived with his parents and siblings – CHH was variously prevented from or heavily restricted in accessing the internet, social media and email.
He was eventually allowed to return home in April 2017, since when his mum says his life has been transformed – particularly as a result of the close relationship he has with his brothers.
“When he was in the care home, you could see a real difference in him – and not for the better.
“His development went backwards, he became more withdrawn, wouldn’t communicate with people and his mental health suffered – it was heartbreaking to see.
“For years we asked the council for more to be done to help our son, but we felt that every time we asked nothing was done.
“Since he’s come home he’s a totally different person [and] his quality of life has improved beyond all measure.
“We’d rather not have found ourselves in the position of having to contact lawyers but we felt we were left with no other choice when nothing was changing for CHH and he was being treated so unfairly.
“We just hope that [by] speaking out we can raise awareness of what it means to be unlawfully deprived of your liberty so more families feel able to challenge placements they feel are wrong for their loved one,” CHH’s mother added.
He was first moved to a temporary care home in January 2010, but after that placement was deemed unsuitable, he was transferred a month later to the facility where he would stay for the next seven years.
In 2017, CHH’s family contacted solicitors to ask them to investigate the decision to keep him in the care home indefinitely.
Fiona McGhie, a specialist public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who represented the family, said after the hearing: “This is a shocking case where the unlawful restrictions placed on CHH have had a profound impact on his life.
“During his placement he was, in effect, imprisoned, living in locked accommodation miles away from his family.
“To make things worse, CHH and his family repeatedly stated that he was unhappy and he wanted to live nearer to [them].
“Given his strong objections to his placement, the local authority should have referred his case to the Court of Protection to determine where it was in his best interests to live. It didn’t do that and so CHH was denied the opportunity of being able to challenge the deprivation of his liberty in a court.
“As a result he lived for many years in a placement where he was extremely unhappy, despite health professionals also raising concerns that he was inappropriately placed.
“While nothing can make up for the years CHH lost, we’re pleased that we’ve at least been able to secure this settlement for CHH and hope he can now try and look to the future the best he can. For the moment, he is now living happily with his family at home.
“This case acts as a stark reminder to all local authorities of the need to ensure that the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are followed – and that those objecting to their placements are supported to challenge them in the Court of Protection.”
In addition to the £200,000 High Court-approved settlement, Lancashire County Council also agreed to pay £155,000 towards the cost of a deputy to manage CHH’s funds on his behalf, due to the fact that he lacks mental capacity to look after his property and affairs for himself.
Louise Taylor, Lancashire County Council’s executive director of adult services and health and wellbeing, said in a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We never take the decision to deprive someone of their liberty lightly and our sole focus is always the best interests of the individual concerned.
“In this case, we clearly didn’t get everything right and we have offered our sincere apologies. We continue to support this man and his family to help them live a good life.
“We have improved our procedures to help prevent situations like this [from] happening in the future.
“New measures are being introduced into this complex area of law that will provide more safeguards for individuals and better clarity for councils and other responsible bodies, which we welcome,” Ms. Taylor added.