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Nottingham City Council (09 012 482)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 18 Apr 2013

Summary

The Local Government Ombudsman criticised Nottingham City Council for failing to properly safeguard the welfare of two children over a four year period.

The complaint

The council has been asked to review its policies for handling complex neglect cases involving children as part of the investigation carried out by the Ombudsman.

The report by the Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, upheld the complaint that the council failed to properly assess the needs of the complainant’s two grandchildren, and as a result they suffered significant neglect as a consequence of their mother’s (the complainant’s daughter) inability to look after them.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said:

“In this case the council failed in its statutory duty to act first and foremost in the interests of the children, by pursuing a strategy for four years of attempting to support their mother to look after them.

“Significant delays in cases involving neglect can have an even more devastating effect on young children because of the impact it has on their development. Timely and effective assessment processes, and clear record keeping by councils would help to alleviate similar issues.”

The mother has long-time been diagnosed with severe learning difficulties, and in 2005 before her first child was born, the council assessed that she was unable to look after children without substantial support.

The investigation found that the council failed to carry out adequate assessments of the children’s needs, and failed to critically assess its own efforts to help the mother to care for them. The council repeatedly attempted to adopt the same strategies, despite the mother being often indifferent and sometimes hostile towards its approaches.

As a result, the children suffered significant periods of neglect and a lack of stimulation in their early years, and one of the children suffered injuries whilst in their mother’s care.

When the children were eventually taken into care in 2009, they spent twelve months with foster carers outside their family, and had no contact with the grandmother for the first seven months, despite previously having regular contact.

The grandmother had been willing to care for the children, however the council attempted to resist her application to become carer by challenging independent assessments of her suitability, for some ten months. The Court eventually granted the grandmother Special Guardianship of the children in July 2010, where they have since thrived.

Recommendations

The Local Government Ombudsman has requested that the council reviews its policies. It has also recommended it compensate the children £5,000 each, reimburse legal expenses of the grandmother, and pay the grandmother £1,000 for the distress caused pursuing the complaint.

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