Lancashire County Council criticised for failing to support vulnerable children properly

Lancashire County Council has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for not providing the right support for two vulnerable siblings when they moved to live with their aunt and uncle.

The siblings, who had a turbulent background and had spent time in foster care, became subject to a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) when they moved to live with their relatives in another area.

Their uncle initially complained to the Ombudsman in 2016 about the lack of support provided by the council, after it became apparent both children had significant needs, and the family would need specialist support and respite because of their past experiences.

Lancashire County Council agreed to a number of recommendations to put things right. However, by February 2018 the uncle returned his complaint to the Ombudsman, as many of the agreed remedies had still not been implemented.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“People can only have confidence in their councils if they honour their commitments. In this case the council’s lack of urgency in carrying out its promises within a reasonable timeframe has undermined the family’s trust, and calls into question its willingness to accept fault and put things right.

“This is particularly important in cases such as this where vulnerable children are involved.

“I now urge Lancashire council to act swiftly and complete the recommendations they agreed in 2016 and those I have now made to improve both the family’s situation and others who complain about its services.”

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 Lancashire County Council should apologise to the couple for failing to provide support to their niece before she turned 18, which caused them distress and write to them jointly with the council where the family now live, setting out how the family will be supported in future by issuing an amended SGO support plan.

It should look at the couple’s training needs and provide that training. It should also pay the couple any backdated respite for the niece that has not been taken along with a further £300 for the distress caused by delays. It should also apologise for the lack of explanation on how the amount the family would be paid was calculated, and a further £100 for time and trouble.

The council should also backdate (to October 2016) the allowances owed and consider what financial support it should provide the couple now the nephew is the only child in the household. It is also asked to backdate this from when the niece left home.

For the nephew, the council should identify an appropriate respite placement and pay the family £250 each month until it does; and make up for the respite provision missed.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case, the council should change its procedures to ensure it keeps complainants informed of the progress of implementing outcomes from their complaints and reviews those procedures for effectiveness.

Article date: 02 May 2019

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