In 1984 I was urgently admitted to Grimsby Maternity Hospital after being diagnosed with Toxemia. There I was given Valium and was induced into labour by being given 3 doses of Syntocinon, instead of the maximum 2 doses which is standard practice. Following a traumatic birth my daughter Natalie was finally delivered with forceps and due to concerns about her poor health was immediately taken to the special natal care unit where she stayed for 19 days.
When my husband and I eventually took Natalie home we could sense that something was wrong. We could not get her to feed and she cried all the time, so we took Natalie to the specialist unit at the Grimsby hospital for assessment. There Natalie was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy in addition to a number of other disabilities.
At the age of 5, Natalie went to the Frederick Holmes School in Hull which caters for children with disabilities. However, as Natalie got older her needs were becoming greater and my husband and I realised we would no longer be able to cope alone with looking after her. We contacted Social Services and began searching for a suitable Care Home near to where we lived, to make sure Natalie could be cared for by professionals.
We looked at all Care Homes within North East Lincolnshire, but because of Natalie’s profound disabilities we deemed that none were suitable. We therefore looked out of County and decided that the most suitable for Natalie was Stonecroft House, a Leonard Cheshire Home. Initially funding was approved at £450 per week, but shortly before Natalie was due to start at Stonecroft, the Leonard Cheshire Foundation restructured their residential fees and Natalie’s had increased to £800 per week. NELC initially told us that they would now not fund Natalie, but after some negotiation a fee was agreed and Natalie started her residential placement.
It was at a local Cerebral Palsy Society meeting, when Nataile was just into her teens, that I met Neil Holland from Stamp, Jackson and Procter. Neil was giving a talk about the processes for looking after people with Cerebral Palsy and the types of cases he had been involved with and how he has helped families claim damages towards long term care.
It was many years later that I approached Neil and explained what my family had been through and that I thought we might have a clinical negligence case against the NHS and the maternity staff. Thankfully I had kept journals during and after Natalie’s birth in which I’d recorded details of all of Natalie’s appointments and hospital treatments etc. These were to prove invaluable to Neil in winning our case.
The case took 6 years from start to finish and it was within the last 2-3 years that the defending side started to weaken and an award for damages looked likely. In 2007, Neil secured a substantial award to help look after Natalie's lifetime requirements.
Having secured the award for damages we decided to place the money with the Court of Protection. This meant the money was held in a Court Held Account which required myself, as Natalie’s Official Receiver, to contact the Office of Public Guardian (OPG) to release monies from the account when required.
Although the award was confirmed in January 2007, paid into the Court Held Account in April 2007, it was not until 18th May 2007 that the first request for money actually arrived into the receivership account. Bearing in mind that carers, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist and a case manager had all been employed to work with Natalie from January 2007, we had not been able to pay any of them. This was a huge frustration and embarrassment to us.
Once the first payment into the receivership account had been made, things were somewhat better, but, the wheels continued to grind away so slowly. It would take on average three weeks to process the request to release of funds, from application to banking the money. For funds to be available more quickly, we ended up having to predict what Natalie might need in the coming weeks and months, and apply for it early so that the money was available when needed. Our dealings with the OPG caused much frustration. It was often difficult contacting them on the telephone and we were unable to speak to the same person. They could never find our file and they were unable to tell us what was going on or who to ask or what to do. The change from The Public Guardian Office to the Office of the Public Guardian seemed to make matters worse. Receivers were to be given a new title of Deputy. This would give the Deputies greater powers and easier access to the Court Held Account however there was no improvement, on the contrary things got worse.
Our last application for a release of funds from the Court Held Account was made on the 10th December 2007 however we were still waiting for the funds to be transferred on the 6th February 2008. This frustration led me to contact Neil and we switched the management of the Award into a Trust set up in conjunction with Stamp, Jackson and Procter.
My family knew and trusted Neil to be the main Trustee, responsible for the correct management of the award. The setting up of the Trust is the best decision we’ve made and has provided us with long term confidence and peace of mind that we are making the right choices and have the support of a professional that has worked with families in a similar position, to look after Natalie. This immediately solved all our problems associated with the OPG and has given us instant access to the funds to cover daily costs for looking after Natalie. The services provided by Stamp Jackson and Procter include the investment of the capital through the trust, expertise from the different departments such as employment law and property advice. Stamp Jackson and Procter even organise the pay roll processing for the carers who look after Natalie.
The service provided by Neil and his team at Stamp Jackson and Procter has allowed us to stop worrying about how we pay for care, how we spend the money, how we plan for the future and fundamentally has enabled us to enjoy our time with Natalie.