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‘Charity put my disabled son’s welfare at risk but I’ll keep on fighting’

Exclusive family 'let down for years'

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Mickey Overend from west Belfast

Mickey Overend from west Belfast

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Mickey gets a hug from his son Michael

Mickey gets a hug from his son Michael

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Michael Overend suffered severe sunburn while in the care of Positive Futures staff.

Michael Overend suffered severe sunburn while in the care of Positive Futures staff.

Mickey Overend from west Belfast

A dad called a "persistent complainant" by health bosses for daring to raise concerns about the quality of care given to his disabled son has vowed to keep fighting.

In a meeting with Micky Overend, the Belfast Trust distanced itself from the assessment made by Positive Futures, the multimillion-pound charity contracted to look after the needs of his severely disabled son Michael.

The trust also conceded failings in the care provided to the 40-year-old wheelchair user, who is non-verbal, deaf, blind, autistic, epileptic and has a profound learning disability.

The Overend family, from north Belfast, do all they can to ensure Michael leads a full life and say a series of incidents had a serious effect on his wellbeing. According to Mr Overend, these include:

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Michael Overend suffered severe sunburn while in the care of Positive Futures staff.

Michael Overend suffered severe sunburn while in the care of Positive Futures staff.

Michael Overend suffered severe sunburn while in the care of Positive Futures staff.

  • Michael suffering severe sunburn while in the care of Positive Futures staff;
  • A failure to allow him to rest after suffering a seizure on an outing;
  • Michael having to miss a dental appointment after mistakenly being given medication;
  • The deduction of £90 per week from his benefits for food by Positive Futures, a bill which reduced to just £56 when his family took over his finances.

After Mr Overend raised concerns over these issues and others, Positives Futures branded him a "persistent complainant" in a letter - a label he believes was meant to shut him up.

"My son has been let down for years - it is one thing after another," he said.

"I've been branded a persistent complainant so Positive Futures don't have to deal with my complaints - something the Belfast Trust has now admitted was wrong.

"There were failings which put Michael's welfare at risk and which I feel were dismissed.

"This 'persistent complainant' was a tag they put on me to avoid having to deal with the complaints I've made regarding the care of my son."

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Mickey gets a hug from his son Michael

Mickey gets a hug from his son Michael

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Mickey gets a hug from his son Michael

In a meeting with Mr Overend regarding his concerns, the Belfast Trust distanced itself from Positive Futures' assessment.

It said: "The trust was at no time in agreement with Positive Futures' remark and will confirm this in writing to Mr Overend, clearly stating that the trust view him as a carer and advocate for his son."

The statement is in stark contrast to an earlier correspondence with Positives Futures which took a tough line with the concerned dad.

The charity told him: "If you believe the decision to classify you as an unreasonable, demanding or persistent complainant is wrong, the decision can be reviewed."

Positive Futures also said it was limiting any complaints from Mr Overend regarding the care provided to his severely disabled son to just one every three months.

Despite photographs clearly showing Michael had suffered sunburn while in the care of its staff, the charity dismissed his dad's concerns.

Positive Futures' letter said, "(Staff) had no reason to believe Michael experienced sunburn", before going on to give what appears to be a medical dictionary definition of the condition.

Mr Overend said he often faces this level of "arrogance" from the charity, which had an income of £9.8million last year.

"I want the public to know what's going on because I'm sure I'm not the only one with concerns," he told Sunday Life.

"Because my son is vulnerable and cannot defend himself, it's my duty to protect him."

Positive Futures chief executive Agnes Lunny said the charity's first priority was the safety and happiness of the hundreds of people it supports.

She added: "For many years we have received a high volume of complaints from a relative of a person we support. These have been investigated by us and by others who received them, including the Information Commissioner's Office, the office of the Ombudsman and senior politicians, and the vast majority have been without foundation.

"At no time did we brand anyone 'a serial complainant'. We said we might consider classifying him as such if complaints continued at such a high volume. This is a standard option in complaints procedures, including those of the Department of Health.

"In fact, we offered him a monthly meeting to raise any issues, but this offer was not taken up. We have written agreement from the Belfast Trust supporting our approach."

Belfast Telegraph