A homeless Islington teenager has been lost in the system after council officers failed to support her when she called on them for help.
London Borough of Islington failed to separate the teenager’s need for help from her mother’s homelessness application, and wrongly told her it owed her no duty, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found.
The teen and her mother had initially been placed by the council in a neighbouring borough when they approached Islington as homeless. But when officers decided the mother was intentionally homeless, the council failed to recognise its separate duties to the girl.
The council told the family they should access children’s services at the neighbouring borough, even though it may have owed a duty under housing legislation.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council at fault for failing to provide services to the teenager when she was at risk of homelessness as it should have carried out an assessment to find out what duty it owed her.
Since the Ombudsman’s investigation, the council has tried to contact the teenager to offer her assistance but has been unable to do so. The teenager’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“Islington council’s failures in this case have led to a situation where there is genuine concern for the welfare of this young person, as the council can no longer get in contact with her.
“Councils need to recognise the separate duty they have towards children when their parents are made homeless.
“I welcome the steps Islington council has already taken to share the lessons that can be learned from this investigation with its staff to help ensure this situation cannot arise in future.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services.
In this case, the council has agreed to try to contact the teenager and offer to carry out an assessment of her needs in conjunction with its housing department. The council has taken this action but has been unable to contact the girl
If the council believes the neighbouring council is responsible for the teenager under the Children Act 1989, it should work with it to resolve any disputes. The teenager should not be disadvantaged by any disagreements and the council should provide any necessary services until the disputes are settled.
The council has paid the girl £400 via a relative for the distress caused as a result of its failure to support her.
In addition to these recommendations the council has told the Ombudsman it has held a complaint learning meeting and disseminated the learning across the department. We welcome the positive action the council has taken to learn from this complaint and avoid similar problems for others in future.
Article date: 13 June 2018