Luton Borough Council’s delays led to a boy in its care not receiving the counselling that he needed.
The Ombudsman said it was indefensible that the Council had failed to follow up a recommendation to pursue further assessment of the boy’s needs, so he remained without counselling or therapy for five years.
The Ombudsman also criticised Luton Council for its delays over assessment of a school at the time of the boy’s transfer to secondary education. He found no fault by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, which was responsible for the boy’s educational provision.
‘Ashley Oakham’ (not his real name for legal reasons) was born in 1995. He was in the care of Luton Borough Council (LBC) after suffering severe neglect in his early childhood and witnessing violence and sexual acts. He was placed with foster parents in Southend-on-Sea in 2000. LBC was his ‘corporate parent’, meaning that it must offer everything that a good parent would provide. Ashley had displayed sexualised behaviour that led to an assessment and therapy for him in February 2001. His therapist recommended further assessment and therapy should this behaviour continue. In 2004, 2005 and 2006 further incidents were reported.
Ashley was due to move into secondary education in September 2006. His educational provision was the responsibility of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council (SBC) and in April 2005 it commenced the consultation process for deciding his educational provision at secondary level. The process took from April 2005 to April 2007. The Ombudsman concluded that LBC had unreasonably delayed assessing the school preferred by the foster parents until after SBC had issued the statement of special educational needs.
In February 2006 LBC referred Ashley to the NSPCC for assessment and recommendations for therapy, and the NSPCC undertook an assessment in May 2006. The assessment led to a year’s therapy from February 2007 to January 2008. The assessment carried out at the end of this therapy led to further more intensive work commencing in March 2008 which is continuing. The Ombudsman concluded that LBC had unreasonably delayed the assessment and provision of Ashley’s therapy following the reports of further sexualised behaviour in 2004, 2005 and 2006, contrary to the advice received in February 2001.
The Ombudsman finds maladministration by Luton Borough Council causing injustice, but no maladministration by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. He recommends that Luton Borough Council should apologise and pay Ashley’s foster parents £3,000 on Ashley’s behalf.
Ombudsman satisfied with Luton Council's response: 20 January 2009