Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 12 May 2021
Summary: Ms X complained that the Council failed to consider her and her partner, Ms Y, and her sister, Ms D, as family foster carers and therefore they have missed out on appropriate financial and other support from the Council when caring for their nephew and niece.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault casuing injustice.
The Council has agreed to:
- apologise to Ms X and Ms Y and to Ms D for the faults identified;
- calculate what Ms X and Ms Y should have received in family fostering payments between March and July 2017;
- calculate what Ms D should have received in a family fostering allowance between late October to early December 2017;
- calculate what Ms X and Ms Y should have received in a family fostering allowance from 12 December 2017 to 2 September 2019, when the Council reached its final complaint decision. For all these family fostering payments, the Council is entitled to deduct any benefits the family received which they would not have received if they had been regarded as family foster carers;
- make a payment of £750 to Ms X and to Ms Y and £300 to Ms D for the avoidable distress and time and trouble;
- provide £1,000 for each child to be used in the way Ms X and Ms Y consider appropriate for the lack of statutory support to the children;
- provide legal funding, up to a limit, for Ms X and Ms Y’s application for a Special Guardianship Order (SGO). It would be in the children’s interests if they now formalise the current arrangement.
The Council, within three months of the date of this report, will:
- produce a written leaflet or booklet which sets out the different permanency options for children, who cannot live with their parents, along with explaining the financial implications of each for the carer. The Council should share this with Stage 2 investigators and complaint review panels;
- tell us how many other cases there are where family members have taken on the responsibility for the care of children when the Council has been actively involved under child protection procedures. This is to check whether there are other family carers, who have been disadvantaged by the same faults identified in this complaint. It would be reasonable for the Council to consider cases from April 2019 because this is when the authorities amalgamated;
- tell us whether, on reviewing these cases, it will also be willing to backdate fostering allowances; and
- exercise discretion to look at historic complaints from families which approach it within 12 months of our final report and who are complaining about events up to five years ago.
Ombudsman satisfied with Council response: 06 October 2021.