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Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council (20 005 182)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 23 Feb 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the communication between the complainants and the Council in their role as foster carers and the removal of a child from their care. The Council has apologised and committed to learning from the communication issues and there is not enough evidence of fault in the way it made the decision to remove the child, so an investigation is not warranted.

The complaint

  1. Mr and Mrs S complain the Council was at fault because it -
  • Did not provide necessary information, support and listen to their views in their role as foster carers whilst looking after a child in an adoption process.
  • Inappropriately removed the child from their care without good reason.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  1. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have read what Mr and Mrs S have said in support of their complaint and the Council’s complaint responses. Mr and Mrs S had the opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision, and I have taken their comments into account in reaching a final view.

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What I found

  1. Mr S and Mrs S were foster carers looking after a child awaiting adoption. They say they had responsibility for the child’s contact with their mother without a requirement to feedback to the Council. When Mrs S did try to provide the Council information about the visits, she says it was ignored.
  2. Mr and Mrs S were not invited to a looked after child review and did not receive the report of it until sometime later. The Council said this was an oversight by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) and it has learned from this, with a manager now ensuring IRO’s and Social Workers invite all suitable parties to a review.
  3. Mr and Mrs S say they had a positive relationship with the child’s natural mother while overseeing visits. The Council formed a different view through its assessments of the mother but did not share the relevant information with Mr and Mrs S. The Council accepts it did not get the balance right on this occasion and has apologised. It also said it has taken learning from this and is working hard to improve its communication with carers.
  4. Mrs S told an adoption social worker that she intended to make a video of the child opening presents at Christmas and send it to their natural mother. The adoption social worker did not agree and reported this. The Council asked Mrs S to attend a meeting to discuss the issue.
  5. Mr and Mrs S say they were being accused of sabotaging the adoption process, causing a safeguarding issue and that their integrity was being questioned. They gave notice of their resignation as foster carers.
  6. The Council removed the child from Mr and Mrs S’s care two days later. They say the removal was not warranted as there was no safeguarding issue.
  7. The Council says it removed the child because it believed Mr and Mrs S intended to facilitate indirect contact between the child and their mother, which was not suitable. It apologised for any distress caused by the suggestion there was a safeguarding issue.
  8. The Council accepts it could have done better with its communication to Mr and Mrs S and has taken learning from some of the issues raised. It is unlikely that further investigation by the Ombudsman would reach a different conclusion about this.
  9. The Council decided to remove the child from Mr and Mrs S because it had a concern about them allowing indirect contact with the child’s mother and they had resigned from their role as foster carers. The Ombudsman could not question the Council’s decision without evidence of procedural fault affecting the decision.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint because the Council has apologised and recognised areas for improvement with its communication. There is not enough evidence of fault in the way the Council reached the decision to remove the child from Mr and Mrs S’s care, so it does not warrant us investigating.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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