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Category : Children's care services > Looked after children

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 19 Jan 2016

Summary

Complaint from a young woman, with the aid of a legal representative, that the council failed to act appropriately and in a timely manner to help her regularise her immigration status after she became a 'looked after child' in 2010.

The complaint

Complaint from a young woman, with the aid of a legal representative, that the council failed to act appropriately and in a timely manner to help her regularise her immigration status after she became a 'looked after child' in 2010. The young woman originally came into the UK from Nigeria to live with her mother in 2006 when she was 10. In early 2010 her mother returned to Nigeria without her. She became a 'looked after child' in September 2010 and she turned 18 in May 2013.

Finding

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.

Recommendations

To remedy the injustice caused to the young woman, the council should within three months of the date of the report:

  • apologise to her for the identified failings; and
  • pay her £5,000 to acknowledge the distress caused by the failure to provide consistent support and advice to her as a 'looked after child', and by the uncertainty caused that, if it were not for those faults, her application to the Home Office for leave to remain in the UK would have been as a child, which may have given her a greater chance of success. This amount also includes a sum to acknowledge the time and trouble caused because the council failed to consider her complaint as fully as it should have.

To improve its practice in future the council should within three months of the date of this report:

  • provide specialist advice and guidance to its social work staff on the different requirements of the immigration rules, as they apply to children seeking asylum and those seeking leave to remain, and on the council's duties in this area;
  • devise an action plan to ensure it gives full and proper consideration to its duties to all its 'looked after children' who may be in need of legal advice, to meet its obligations as their corporate parent to safeguard and promote their welfare. In particular to those 'looked after children' with complex immigration problems who may need suitable and timely legal advice regarding their immigration status. It should clearly record the reasons if it has refused to arrange legal advice in such cases;
  • ensure officers record both the questions raised and any legal advice given; and
  • ensure all of the complaints it has considered at Stage 1 of statutory Children Act complaints procedure are progressed to Stage 2 if that is the complainant's wish, as is their right.

The council has accepted our recommendations.

Ombudsman satisfied with council's response: 27 May 2016

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