A mother whose teenage daughter has Down’s syndrome is furious after ‘disgusting’ Wirral Council sent her a letter addressed to ‘Ms Downs’
A mother whose teenage daughter has Down’s syndrome has branded a council ‘disgusting’ after receiving a letter from the authority that began: ‘Dear Ms Downs’.
Lisa Masters, 49, said she was appalled at the correspondence from Wirral Council, which was sent in response to a complaint she made about the ‘mistreatment’ of her 18-year-old daughter Rebekah.
The council has since apologised and said it was an ‘honest mistake’. A spokesman said staff assumed ‘Downs’ was Mrs Masters’ surname because her email address contained the word.
In actual fact it represents the name of a charity shes runs to support the families of people with Down’s syndrome, called ‘Sundowns’.
Mrs Masters, from Claughton, Wirral, said: ‘I was shocked to be honest, the whole thing was pretty disgusting.
‘I said to my other daughter, Leah, “you’ll never guess what they’ve just called me” and she was shocked too.
‘I didn’t know if I was over reacting or not so put it on Facebook asking people whether this was acceptable – and just like me everyone was appalled.
‘All I got afterwards was a short email apologising for that, but it’s just not acceptable really.’
Rebekah, who is also autistic, lives with a foster family in Southport while she attends a specialist school for pupils with autism.
Mrs Masters had contacted Wirral Council in an attempt to arrange respite care Rebekah for four weeks whilst her foster family went on holiday.
She claimed the council were not very helpful trying to find temporary accommodation for her daughter and when the social team found her somewhere to stay Rebekah only had three weeks to transition.
The letter attached to the email had the correct name on it. Wirral Council claimed that Mrs Masters had been referred to as Ms Downs, rather than by actual name, because her email address contains the word ‘downs’
Mrs Masters said it would normally take about six months to settle someone like Rebekah into an unfamiliar place, such as when her foster carers go on holiday, because of the anxiety she suffers.
The fundraising manager at Liverpool Women’s Hospital said: ‘I’d put in a formal complaint a few months ago and never heard anything back so send them another letter.
‘But that was when I got this reply – and it was just the icing on the cake, they’d even got Rebekah’s foster mum’s name wrong.
‘It’s frustrating for them to first ignore me and to then send this letter with so many mistakes – and one that offended me – it just shows a level of incompetence.
‘Rebekah gets very anxious and she doesn’t react well to change at all – she should have been introduced to the facility six months before she stayed there – it’s not been handled well at all.’
Mrs Masters added: ‘Rebekah gets incredibly anxious when she’s out of her comfort zone. She will throw and smash things – she’s broken my nose in the past.
‘She’s extremely strong. Even when she was just five years old, I’d have no chance restraining her.’
The council’s social care team found a place for Rebekah at the specialist St Joseph’s Home in Formby but she only had three weeks to get used to the move.
Mrs Masters said: ‘St Joseph’s have been lovely and worked very hard to get to know Rebekah, but I am just not happy with how slowly the council acted.’
Wirral Council claimed that Mrs Masters had been referred to as Ms Downs, rather than by her actual name, because her email address contains the word ‘downs’.
A Wirral Council spokesman said: ‘One complaint relating to this case has been investigated and responded to, and another is being considered. We have apologised to Ms Masters and a senior manager has offered to meet her to discuss her concerns further.
‘Sourcing respite care can be a complex process, particularly where an individual is transitioning to adulthood. Various options were explored in this case and we are now working to ensure a smooth transition.
‘We have apologised to Ms Masters for giving the wrong name. This was an honest mistake, but not acceptable, and we are very sorry.’