London Borough of Haringey (17 007 648)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 29 Oct 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Council failed to follow the correct statutory procedures when it removed four foster children from the complainant’s care. This caused her avoidable distress. The Council has agreed to make a payment to the complainant for her injustice and it will remind social work managers of the importance of following the statutory framework for removing children from a foster carer and of the importance of keeping proper records of their decision making.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I shall refer to as Ms X, complains about the services provided to her by the Council when she looked after four children as a foster carer. I shall refer to the four children as Child 1, Child 2, Child 3 and Child 4. Ms X looked after them between February and May 2016.
  2. In particular, Ms X alleges that the children were removed from her care unlawfully in that the Council did not follow the necessary requirements and unfairly alleged that they were likely to suffer significant harm if they remained in her care.
  3. The Council investigated Ms X’s complaints under the statutory children’s complaints procedure up to Stage 2 of a three-stage process. Ms X also complains about the way the Council has dealt with her complaints.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
  2. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. Ms X has provided a detailed written complaint about her concerns. The Council has provided a response to my enquiries but it initially wanted to limit the sharing of documents because they contain personal information regarding the children and their parents. However, the Council reconsidered its position and it has now sent me the majority of the documents requested.
  2. I have spoken to Ms X on the telephone. I am only looking at her claimed injustice caused by the alleged fault by the Council and not that of the children.
  3. I issued two draft decision statements and I have considered the additional comments when reaching my final decision.
  4. Under the information sharing agreement between the Local Government Ombudsman and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), we will share the final decision statement with Ofsted.

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What I found

  1. In April 2011, the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 replaced the 2002 regulations. There is a duty on the fostering service to provide help, support and training to the carer.
  2. The National Fostering Minimum Standards says investigations into allegations against carers should be carried out quickly and should provide protection to the child but also support to the person subject to the investigation. Foster carers should be told in writing about any allegations against them and given information about the timescale for completing the investigation. They should also be told about the payment of allowance and any fee while investigations are continuing.
  3. A council shall not allow the placement of a child with a particular person to continue if it appears to them that the placement is no longer the most suitable way of performing their duty. Where it appears to an authority that the continuation of a placement would be detrimental to the welfare of the child concerned, the council shall remove the child forthwith.
  4. Part 5 of the 2011 Fostering Services Regulations provides for the assessment of foster carers. A council must carry out an assessment which is referred to a Fostering Panel. A Panel can only make a recommendation as to whether the person is suitable. If there are concerns, a fostering agency will normally carry out a Standard of Care investigation.
  5. Foster carers are normally approved for up to 3 children unless it is a sibling group. Fostering agencies are required to grant an exemption where a foster carer exceeds the fostering limit.
  6. The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) considers allegations about those working with children. They are responsible for the management and oversight of investigations into allegations that someone who works with children has behaved in a way that may pose a risk to children. Alternatively, there can be standards of care investigations by the fostering agency where it is not felt that there is a child protection concern.
  7. Fostering agencies have different policies in respect of payments to foster carers while there is an investigation of allegations.

Care planning for looked after children

  1. A council can accommodate a child, under 16, with the formal consent of the parents. Once the council accommodates a child, that child is considered a ‘looked after child’ (LAC). Parents can request the return of their children and a council must concede to such a request unless it has safeguarding concerns.
  2. If so, the council can apply to the Courts for an interim Care Order. A Care Order gives councils parental responsibility shared with the parents.
  3. A council should have an individual care plan for the child, and a process to review those plans. The planning about the child should be with the aim of safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare, preventing drift and ensuring the work needed is carried out. Reviews of children’s cases are commonly referred to as LAC reviews and should take place every 6 months unless there is a need to consider the child’s needs before then.
  4. Where a child is in the care of the council, it must appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to oversee the care planning and ascertain the children’s wishes.
  5. In March 2015, the Government issued statutory guidance under the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review’. This states that, where a council wishes to terminate a placement, it must carry out a review of the child’s case and ensure that the views of all people have been heard, including the child as well as the parents, the child’s carer and other significant people. It states that foster carers should be appropriately consulted. And involved in the decision making for the children.
  6. The Guidance says a council should not move a child unless this is by agreement following a statutory review, it is clearly in the child’s best interests, the decision has taken into account the child’s wishes and feelings and the move is properly planned.
  7. Section 22 of the Children Act 1989 provides that a council, so far as is reasonably practicable, shall ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child, the parents and any other person the council considers to be relevant regarding the matter to be decided.
  8. In a case EWHC 2545 v Norfolk, the Court decided, on the particular facts of the case, that no reasonable authority could proceed with a decision to terminate a foster placement without at least telling the foster carer that this is what it would be considering.

Child Protection

  1. Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 provides that the Council must investigate allegations of significant harm caused to children by their parents or carers. The process to follow is set out in the guidance Working Together 2015.
  2. The decision to initiate a section 47 (child protection) enquiry is normally made at a strategy meeting involving interested representatives of social care and external agencies, such as the police, health and schools.

Statutory complaints procedures

  1. The Children Act 1989 and the Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006 provides that, those in receipt of certain services, can make representations or complaints to the Council. The Council has to investigate the complaint subject to certain restrictions.
  2. There are three stages to the statutory social services complaints procedure. The first stage allows an informal resolution of the complaint. If that is not possible, the complainant is entitled to a detailed independent investigation of the complaint. The Council may also appoint an Independent Person (IP) to oversee the investigation. At the final stage, an independent Complaints Review Panel can consider the complaint. Once the complainant has completed the statutory complaints procedure, he/she can refer the complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, if they remain dissatisfied.
  3. The Getting the Best from Complaints Guidance 2006 provides detailed guidance on how councils should conduct investigations into complaints. It states foster carers, including those caring for children placed through independent fostering agencies, are entitled to make a complaint under the statutory process.
  4. In March 2015, the Ombudsman issued a Focus Report about children’s social care complaints. The Ombudsman highlighted that, in accordance with paragraphs 3.5.8 and 3.9.2 of the above guidance, the complainant had the right to go through all stages of the complaints procedure if they so wish.
  5. However, the Ombudsman’s Focus Report recognised that the statutory complaints procedure did not cover complaints from foster carers about children they used to care for or decisions about whether to place or remove.
  6. This has resulted in a discussion between the Council and the Ombudsman’s office about whether Ms X is entitled to pursue a complaint through the statutory process. I have dealt with this aspect as a separate matter so not to delay the investigation of Ms X’s substantive complaint.

The Council’s procedures

  1. For children in long term foster placements, visits by the social worker should not be less frequent than six monthly. The foster carer will receive support from the fostering agency’s supervising social worker. Where there are concerns, consideration should be given to seeking additional resources to assist the foster carer.
  2. A LAC review should be convened where the Council is concerned that the child is at risk of harm. If there are concerns, the Council can bring forward the date of the next LAC review.
  3. Placement planning meetings should be convened as part of the placing of the child with a foster carer and further meetings should be held at intervals agreed with the foster carer and supervising social worker.

Key facts

  1. Ms X was approved as a foster carer by an independent fostering agency which I shall refer to as Agency Z. Ms X’s fostering review of October 2015 recorded that there were no concerns about her care and she was recommended to care for three children or a sibling group of two/three children aged 0-18 for long or short term, respite and emergency placements.
  2. Ms X also has two older sons living at home with her.
  3. Ms X agreed to accommodate the four children after they had been removed from their parents’ care because the Police were concerned about their welfare. The children had alleged physical abuse by their father. The Police stated that the two older children’s accounts had remained consistent. The Council initiated care proceedings.
  4. Ms X collected the three older children from the Council’s offices; the fourth child was brought to her home by the Police. The four children were placed with Ms X as an emergency. The placement of four children exceeded Ms X’s normal fostering limit. The Council prepared a Placement Plan, as required. The children had previously come into care. However, Ms X says she was told very little about the children. When they arrived, Ms X says that the children were unkempt.
  5. The Placement Plan noted that Child 1’s behaviour had been described by his school as ‘’very strange’. Child 2 was described as mute for a while but he had settled and Child 3 had displayed impulsive behaviour. Child 4 was still very young.
  6. At a LAC review, there were no reported concerns about the placement with Ms X. The IRO spoke to the older children and all stated that they were happy to remain with Ms X. It was also noted that Child 2 had absconded from home in the past and that he may be on the autistic spectrum. His school had noted an improvement in his presentation since being with Ms X. But a referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) was considered appropriate.
  7. The LAC reviews also highlighted the problems the other children were having.
  8. Ms X told the social worker that Child 3 had been excluded from school. The Head of the school explained that Child 3’s behaviours had been ‘scary’. Ms X emailed the social worker with information about what the children had told her about their time at home with their parents. Ms X headed this email ‘Children Disclosures’.
  9. The social worker visited Ms X and saw all four children. The social worker reported that the older children appeared happy in the placement. She noted that Child 2 may have experienced punitive parenting at home and that his outbursts of anger may be his way of trying to gain control. The social worker reported no child protection concerns.
  10. Ms X emailed the social worker requesting an urgent assessment of Child 2. Ms X explained that his outbursts were concerning and that he was unaware of danger. The then social worker agreed to chase up the referral to CAMHS.
  11. Ms X had also asked for school transport to get him to school. The Council had agreed to explore this but Ms X says that she did not receive an answer to her request. Child 2 was late to school because Ms X had to take another sibling to school first.
  12. Ms X’s fostering social worker from Agency Z emailed the Council’s social worker to say that Ms X was having problems taking all three children to school, along with Child 4. Agency Z also explained that Child 2 was pushing the boundaries. The social worker visited Ms X. The social worker reported that Child 2 had difficulty in managing his emotions but that Ms X was putting in place strong boundaries.
  13. The social worker, in a supervision session, stated that there appeared to be a number of behavioural and emotional issues and the Court Guardian in the care proceedings had asked for a paediatric assessment of all four children.
  14. The Council’s social worker visited Ms X to hand over to the new social worker. Ms X says that the social workers witnessed the rivalry between Child 2 and Child 3. Ms X says that this social worker was very supportive.
  15. The Council says that Child 2’s school asked for a meeting because he had become very unsettled. In the meantime, Ms X gave notice to Agency Z that she wished to leave and she told the Council that she intended to join another independent fostering agency.
  16. The Team Manager noted that Ms X had requested assistance with taking the children to school. The Manager noted that it may be possible to look for an escort for Child 2.
  17. Ms X emailed the new social worker to say how well Child 3 was doing. She also explained that the new fostering agency may be able to pay her son to help with school transport and it would provide training to help manage children’s challenging behaviours.
  18. Ms X says that, one day, Child 2 was being very disruptive and was smashing up his room. She called Agency Z social worker who advised her to let Child 2 go outside the house to minimise the disruption. Child 2 went to the bike club, three minutes away. But the club was closed. Child 2 returned home angry. Ms X again telephoned Agency Z social worker, who advised her to call the Police, which she did, and to inform the Council.
  19. Ms X therefore telephoned the Council’s Emergency Duty Team (EDT) to explain what had happened. Ms X says that Child 2 was outside her property for about 15 minutes. The Police visited and spoke to Child 2. This seemed to help.
  20. The next day Ms X telephoned the Council’s new social worker to discuss what had happened. The social worker told her that she would ring back but Ms X says she did not.
  21. The new social worker discussed the case with her Manager explaining that Ms X was having difficulties with getting the children to school and that Child 2 could not travel in the car because he undid the seat belt of the baby, Child 4. The new social worker recorded that it appeared the school and Ms X had different views; Ms X thought that Child 2 may be on the autistic spectrum and she felt that the school was not dealing with this appropriately. The Council noted that Child 2’s school had asked for a meeting and this had been arranged.
  22. The supervision note recorded that Ms X had been managing the school runs with the help of her sons. But they could no longer help. The Council noted that Ms X was having difficulty in managing all four children but that “in the absence, however, of a placement that we can be sure would meet the needs better, moving them is a decision that cannot be taken lightly, especially if this is to involve separation”. The Manager suggested an internal meeting with fostering, placements and the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) before the meeting with the school. But it appears that such a meeting did not go ahead.
  23. At this supervision meeting, it was also noted that Ms X had looked up information about the birth parents on the internet and had photographed Child 2 having a tantrum. Ms X says that it was Agency Z who had looked up the birth parents, not her. In respect of the filming, Ms X says she sent the previous social worker detailed reports about the children and had told her that she would film Child 2’s tantrums to provide evidence to the social worker of his behaviours.

Events which led to the children’s removal

  1. There was a meeting with the Deputy Head of Child 2’s school, the social worker, the placement officer, the children’s IRO and Ms X. The school was concerned that Child 2 was late for school and also that he appeared jealous of the fun Child 3 was having with her schooling.
  2. Two days later, the Council received an anonymous referral letter stating Ms X was ‘harsh and rough with the children and that she manipulated the social worker for extra money’. The referrer had copied the letter to the ‘local press’ and had also named Ms X and given her address. This letter however was not published in the local press.
  3. The children’s new social worker and Manager were not available to deal with the anonymous letter. So, the Area Manager, along with a social worker from Agency Z, agreed to visit Ms X.
  4. On the visit, the Area Manager and the agency social worker spoke to the three older children, alone. Child 1 said very little; Child 2 said that the placement was ‘alright’ but that Ms X often shouted at him; Child 3 said the placement was ‘OK’. I have seen the record of the children’s interviews as has Ms X. The Area Manager noted that she thought that Ms X had been listening at the door while she was talking to the children. Ms x says she was not but she had moved Child 2 and Child 3 who were listening.
  5. Ms X says the Area Manager and Agency Z social worker never asked for her views or about the difficulties she was having with managing the four children and getting them to school.
  6. At the end of the meeting, Ms X raised her concerns about Agency Z with the social worker. The Council arranged for Agency Z to visit Ms X over the bank holiday weekend. Agency Z did so and reported no concerns.
  7. After this visit, the Council says that there was a meeting among senior professionals to discuss the children’s placement. The Council says that this was not a formal meeting and that there are no notes of it. The Council says that the Deputy Head of Service consulted the children’s IRO. The decision to remove the children without notice was then approved by the Head of Service (who has now left the Council’s employment).
  8. The Council says it shared some of the concerns with the children’s parents and it also received a response from their solicitor requesting the immediate removal of the children from Ms X. The Council says that the parents suggested two alternative carers and, as the parents retained parental responsibility, the Council was obliged to follow their instructions.
  9. The Council says that this was an emergency situation and therefore a LAC review to consider the move was not appropriate. It says it had concerns about the standard of care and Ms X’s ability to cope with the children.
  10. The Council considers that Ms X was not a relevant person with whom it should consult and she had only known the children for 12 weeks. The guidance allows immediate removal where there is an immediate risk of significant harm and also the children’s parents retained parental responsibility and had asked for their removal.
  11. In addition, the Council says that the relationship between Ms X and Agency Z had broken down and she was not allowing visits from them. This was another factor in its decision. (Ms X disputes this and it is recorded that Agency Z’s social worker visited over the bank holiday weekend).
  12. The Council removed the children from Ms X’s care. Agency Z had told Ms X this decision that day. The Council did not have a foster placement to take all four children and therefore they had to be split into two separate foster placements.
  13. The allegation about Ms X was referred to the LADO in the area which she lives (Area C). The LADO regarded this as a standard of care issue and it referred it back to Agency Z for investigation. The LADO did not consider that there were child protection issues.
  14. Ms X says that Agency Z deregistered her because the Council had removed the children as an emergency. Subsequently, Ms X says that the Council re-referred the matter back to the LADO in Area C. (However, as I have not investigated the LADO’s actions, I cannot comment on this).
  15. Ms X considered Agency Z had acted unfairly and had made unfounded defamatory remarks about her. Ms X pursued a legal claim against Agency Z successfully. She has been awarded damages.

The Council’s complaint investigation

  1. The Deputy Head of Service explained that the children had been removed because of concerns about the standard of care provided by Ms X. She also referred to the children being quite unsettled and that there were particular concerns about Child 2. The Council, however, also acknowledged the difficulties for Ms X in getting the children to school and the strain this placed on her.
  2. The Council stated that it was the anonymous referral which prompted the children’s removal as an emergency.
  3. The Council agreed to progress the complaint to Stage 2 because the Ombudsman requested it to do so. The complaint was allocated to an Investigating Officer (IO) and to an Independent Person (IP).
  4. The investigation did not uphold the complaint that the children were unlawfully removed from Ms X’s care. Therefore, there were no grounds to recompense her for loss of earnings since the children’s removal.
  5. The IRO’s views were sought as part of the investigation. The IRO reported that he had ‘worries’ about the case and that a child ‘had been left outside for a while’.
  6. The Council’s investigation considered that all relevant people had been consulted when reaching the Council’s decision.
  7. The IO said that the words ‘standard of care’ did not appear in the Council’s records. She noted that the birth parents had requested immediate removal.

The Council’s comments

  1. The Council told the Ombudsman that it had a ‘standard of care’ concern about Ms X. However, where there is an immediate risk of significant harm to a child, the Council must remove the child from the placement. As this was an emergency situation, a LAC review was not appropriate at the time. It was decided that a LAC review would be completed once the children had been placed in a new placement.
  2. The Council says that Ms X’s relationship with Child 2’s school had virtually broken down and there were concerns about her relationship with Agency Z.

Ms X’s comments

  1. Ms X says that there are two different accounts of events when Child 2 had been left outside. For example, the Council has said that Child 2 was locked out for a considerable time while the family went shopping. But that was not the case. Child 3 had explained to the Area Manager that they could not go shopping until the Police had arrived. In any event, the shopping centre did not open until 12 and the Police arrived at 12.15pm.
  2. Ms X says that the Council also said that it was not aware of these events until three days later. However, that is not the case given Ms X had referred the matter to the Council’s EDT and Ms X sent the Ombudsman a copy of the EDTs note of her telephone call. Ms X says that the EDT social worker was not concerned at the time and the Council left the children in her care for three weeks after this incident and for two weeks after the anonymous letter.
  3. Ms X considers that the Council failed to read the children’s case notes properly before making its decision. Further all the children had said that they were ‘ok’ in the placement when asked. The new social worker had only met the children once at a hand over meeting with the previous social worker.
  4. Ms X says that the Council is wrong to say that her relationship with Agency Z had given rise to legitimate concerns. Moreover, none of the agencies directly involved with the children were consulted about the proposed move from her care, for example CAMHS, the speech therapist, health visitor and the children’s schools.
  5. Ms X remains concerned that allegations have been made about her care of the children to justify the children’s removal. But the Council failed to speak to her directly about these and failed to consider all the available evidence.
  6. Ms X considers the IRO could not comment in the way he did to the Investigating Officer (IO) because he had not looked into the matter in any depth. The IRO only met the children once when they were in her care and again when the children had been moved.
  7. Ms X says that the children were removed because of a section 47 investigation. This made it difficult for her to continue working as a foster carer and that it was hard for a new agency to accept her because she has had 4 children removed as an emergency. Ms X therefore lost her livelihood because of the Council’s actions.

Analysis

  1. The Council placed four children with Ms X as an emergency, which exceeded her normal fostering limit. But, as this was a sibling group, no exemption was required. However, the Council would have been aware that looking after a group of four children would place additional strain on most single foster parents.
  2. Once placed, the Council recognised the difficulties for Ms X in getting the children to school. But I can see no evidence that the Council tried to resolve this by providing free school transport. It also meant Ms X was struggling with a difficult situation that she herself admitted she was finding hard. The Council had a duty to safeguard these children and it should have made efforts to help make the placement work.
  3. For three months, the Council’s plan was that the children should remain with Ms X, that it was not appropriate to split the children but it was necessary to support Ms X. The Council was aware, when reaching this view, of the incident when Ms X had left Child 2 outside.
  4. Because of an anonymous letter received, alleging Ms X was harsh and rough with the children, the Council rightly arranged to speak to the children alone. While Child 2 said Ms X shouted at him, there had been no other negative comment and the children said the placement was ‘alright’.
  5. The Council consulted the IRO. The IRO supported a move on the basis that Ms X had left Child 2 alone outside the property for a while. I cannot see that the IRO sought any further information about this or raised any question about the plan to remove the children as an emergency rather than following the normal process of discussing this option at a LAC review.
  6. The Council decided that immediate removal was required. It justified its decision on the basis of the anonymous letter, on the incident of leaving Child B outside and on the fact that the children’s parents had requested this. The Council maintains that this was an emergency situation and therefore it was not necessary to follow the statutory guidance for making such a decision.
  7. I am satisfied that there is evidence of fault by the Council as follows:
      1. The Council failed to provide the specific support Ms X had requested, namely help with school transport, despite knowing that the school run was putting a particular strain on Ms X, that Child 2’s behaviour could be risky and that looking after four children would be a difficult task;
      2. The Council had contradictory information about the incident involving Child 2 but it did not obtain Ms X’s account to clarify matters or, as far as I can see, information from the Police;
      3. The Council failed to take into consideration that Ms X had contacted Agency Z and the Council’s EDT asking for assistance in managing Child 2’s behaviour. She had also followed the advice given;
      4. The EDT requested the social worker contacted Ms X to discuss events but the social worker failed to do so;
      5. The Council says that, the evidence it had, required immediate removal of the children without notice and without going through the statutory LAC process. But it was two weeks after the Council had received the anonymous letter before the children were removed. Further, the Council has said that it had ‘standard of care’ concerns rather than s47 child protection concerns although this is not recorded in the Council’s files. But, if the Council had standards of care concerns, this would not have required the children’s immediate removal. So, I cannot conclude that this was an ‘emergency’ situation as claimed by the Council;
      6. On that basis, I am satisfied that there would have been time for the Council to have arranged an emergency LAC review to ensure it had the views from all those who knew the children before making the significant decision to disrupt the placement. But the Council did not and that is fault and it might have made a significant difference to the outcome if there had been a LAC review;
      7. The IRO’s task was to ensure that the children’s best interests were safeguarded. I cannot see, on the basis of the information which I have seen, that the IRO challenged the Council’s decision making as required. That is fault;
      8. The Council failed to keep records of meetings with senior officers who made significant decisions about the placement of four vulnerable children;
      9. It is right and proper that the Council respond to anonymous referrals by visiting and seeing the children alone. But, in this case, the children did not raise the concerns as alleged in the letter and therefore the Council should have given more thought to how much weight to give to the letter as evidence to justify removal without notice;
      10. The Council’s complaint investigation did not consider all the relevant facts of the case and therefore its conclusions cannot be relied upon.

Ms X’s injustice

  1. Ms X says that, because of the Council’s actions, she was deregistered from Agency Z and has had difficulty in being approved by another fostering agency. However, she is now registered with another agency.
  2. Ms X also considers her reputation has been prejudiced by the Council’s decision to remove four children from her care, as an emergency. Ms X is seeking some compensation from the Council for her lost income and avoidable distress.
  3. I am satisfied that the Council’s faults have caused Ms X avoidable distress and upset and its actions will have affected her reputation as a foster carer. However, I am aware that Ms X had planned to leave Agency Z in any event. It would also be difficult for the Ombudsman to conclude that Ms X has had difficulty in registering with another agency solely because of the Council’s faults. Agency Z has played a significant part. I also consider any loss of earnings is a matter for Agency Z and I understand that, through Ms X’s legal action against Agency Z, she has received some compensation from them.
  4. However, I am satisfied that Ms X has been subjected to avoidable distress by the Council’s faults. Moreover, Ms X was willing to take on a sibling group of four children, all of whom had their individual difficulties. Having done so, the Council left her struggling with the difficult task of getting three children to school on time and, later on in the placement, provided her with little support.
  5. The Council’s reasons for immediate removal without notice are not supported by the evidence which I have seen. This has caused Ms X considerable disquiet. It has also taken Ms X considerable time and trouble in pursuing her complaints.

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Agreed action

  1. Where there has been avoidable distress, the Ombudsman’s recommendation to remedy such injustice is symbolic and payments are normally between £300 to £1,000 depending on the severity of the injustice. In this case, I am satisfied that Ms X’s injustice is on the severe end.
  2. I therefore recommend the following actions by the Council. These actions should be implemented within two months of the final decision date. The Council should:
      1. send a written instruction to its Managers and IROs that they should follow the statutory guidance in relation to terminating children’s placements and the Council should ensure that a LAC review considers such decisions when it is not an emergency;
      2. remind Managers about the importance of making a formal record of their decision making;
      3. apologise, in writing, to Ms X for the faults and resulting injustice which I have identified;
      4. pay Ms X £750 for her avoidable distress and for her time and trouble in pursuing her complaints;
      5. I am not considering the children’s injustice. But I consider that a note should be placed on all four children’s files to record that the Ombudsman has decided that there was fault by the Council in how it decided to move them from Ms X’s care.

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Final decision

  1. I consider that there is fault causing an injustice to Ms X. The Council has now agreed the recommended remedy and therefore I am closing the complaint.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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