PARENTS of a young man with severe autism claim a push to reduce costs has led to short cuts being taken in assessing his needs.

They have raised their concerns with Wirral Autistic Society, whose chief executive told the Globe they are aware of the issue and warned failure to follow agreed procedures can be "terribly damaging."

Wirral Council said the parents are mistaken and categorically denied any short cuts in assessments have occurred.

The issue centres around a formal annual review that must be carried out to gauge the needs of a person with autism and work out a plan for their welfare and care for the next 12 months.

The review is usually attended by an array of care professionals including adult social services and other advisors, along with parents and the autistic person themselves if possible.

The Globe was contacted by the parents, who asked to remain anonymous. They said they were alarmed when it appeared the formal appraisal had been circumvented and replaced by a "friendly chat" with a social worker who, when invited into their home, proceeded to conduct a review of their son's care needs.

"In our view it was just a short cut in which our son's care requirements easily could have been wrongly assessed and those requirements changed or reduced," they said.

"Fortunately we are quite clued-up to the correct procedures - but not every family is.

"As soon as we realised what was actually going on and this 'friendly chat' was nothing of the sort we called an immediate halt and later alerted the autistic society.

"The question we keep asking is, why are social services trying to employ such a stealthy approach to autistic people needing care?

"Our only conclusion is that it must be an attempt to reduce costs which, when you consider what is at stake, is rather shocking."

Robin Bush, chief executive of Wirral Autistic Society, confirmed the organisation has been approached by the parents, whose son is in their care.

He said: "There's a statutory requirement to review the care and support an individual receives on an annual basis.

" I can't reiterate strongly enough how important it is that these reviews are conducted correctly.

"People's lives are affected by the decisions taken at these meetings. "

He said typically, a service-provider such the autistic society as would convene the meeting and invite all parties.

Those involved would include the local authority's social worker, the family and a representative from a community health team.

The person with autism should be invited to attend and would be encouraged to communicate any wishes if he or she is able to do so.

Mr Bush continued: "Sometimes the person may not be capable of participating - but on other occasions these formal reviews are a source of great excitement.

"The point of this very formal and multi-disciplinary approach is that everyone has the opportunity to give their input and we can all work together to make the best possible life for the person we support.

"Isolated conversations held without all parties being present can be terribly damaging - they are also deeply contrary to the 'personalisation' agenda we all adhere to in the world of social care.

"This means simply that the needs of the vulnerable person are put at the very centre of all decision-making about them."

A statement from Wirral Council said: "By law we have to complete annual reviews involving carers, family, care providers and the person who is receiving the service.

"This requirement has not changed.

"The annual reviews are still going ahead as they always have done, so there appears to have been some confusion.

"We cannot state too strongly that annual case reviews have not changed.

"We would be more than happy to look into what appears to have caused the confusion but need details of the family concerned so we can contact them."


It is not the first time adult social services has been accused of using stealth to cut costs.

In March 2012 the then leader of the council, Cllr Jeff Green, said he had discovered evidence the service had been operating a secret but deliberate policy of not acting as quickly as possible to introduce home care packages for vulnerable people.

The move was claimed to have been introduced to save money.

Revelations of the so-called “four-week delay” system caused a public outcry.

But an investigation by consultant Rob Vickers cleared the town hall of any wrong-doing and ruled the policy actually was “an appropriate and proportionate management initiative endorsed at branch and senior leadership team levels.”

His report went on: “In effect the four-week delay introduced a process of managing demand for domiciliary care from independent sector providers.”

Mr Vickers found there was no secrecy about the strategy: "The four-week delay was openly acknowledged and endorsed by the senior leadership team."