Alsager: Cheshire East could set up register of bi-lingual speakers

By Belinda Ryan - Local Democracy Reporter

21st Nov 2023 | Local News

Cheshire East Council's HQ, Westfields, in Middlewich Road, Sandbach (Image - Nub News)
Cheshire East Council's HQ, Westfields, in Middlewich Road, Sandbach (Image - Nub News)

Cheshire East is looking into setting up a register of multi-language speakers after a vulnerable non-English speaking man who hadn't eaten for two weeks was found dead at his home.

The 64-year-old Slovakian man, referred to as Anton, had died of pneumonia.

Anton had lived in England for 12 years and was known to many services.

Following his death in November 2021, a safeguarding adults review was carried out to see how the relevant agencies involved in his care in Cheshire East could work together better in the future to prevent something similar happening again.

A report to yesterday's (November 20) meeting of the council's adults and health committee stated: "This case review has highlighted emerging themes around self-neglect, particularly for someone who could not speak English, had physical and mental health conditions, and was not provided with information or translation services in a timely or consistent fashion by all services, which led to missed appointments and access to treatment.

"Although many agencies worked effectively to overcome Anton's language barriers, not all agencies recognised the problems posed by his lack of English and messages and letters were still being sent in English at points near to the end of his life."

Bollington councillor John Place (Lab) said interpreters were expensive but added: "I'm sure out there, across our 400,000 resident population, there are people who speak varying languages, of probably older age, who could surely be asked the question to join some kind of register to actually help… Can we ask them to maybe step forward in cases like this this to help the professionals."

Director of adults and social care Jill Broomhall said this would be looked into.

The report identified that some agencies did help Anton, including the housing association, but the safeguarding system had failed him.

Sandbach councillor Nicola Cook (Ind) said: "It seems vitally clear to me that, despite the best efforts of the housing association, the safeguarding system failed Anton.

Cllr Nicola Cook. (Photo: Cheshire East Council)

"Two safeguarding referrals were made and when the second safeguarding referral was closed, the housing association made 17 further attempts to make a safeguarding concern."

She said his death was two years ago but, because he died alone, no-one knew the exact date. The report into the review was approved in March 2023 so Cllr Cook wanted a further update to ensure the recommendations had been put in place. That was agreed by the committee.

Cllr Andrew Kolker (Holmes Chapel) said there was evidence Anton had been betrayed by friends and relatives and financially exploited by others, so he wouldn't trust the authorities and would be hard to engage with – as the report stated. He asked how this would be dealt with in future.

Cllr Janet Clowes (Wybunbury, Con) agreed with Cllr Cook that 'non-engagement is not a reason to stop trying, it's actually a reason to try harder'.

Knutsford councillor Stewart Gardiner (Con) said: "Possibly, had he been sent the letters in his native tongue, he might have been able to respond to the enquiry."

He said lessons must be learned but 'there was nobody individually who failed, it was the system itself that failed'.

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