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Staffordshire council to think again about care leaver’s complaint

Staffordshire County Council has agreed to reconsider whether to investigate a woman’s complaint about her time as a child in its care, following an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The woman became a looked after child for a short time as a teenager in 2011, when she could no longer live with her parents. She stayed with two sets of foster parents before moving back with her mother. Some time after returning to her mother’s care, she again called on the council for help when she was 15, pregnant and her parents did not want to support her.

In late 2020, now 24 years old, the woman complained to the council about the support she received while in its care. She believed she had missed out on support she should have been entitled to as a formerly looked after child with a baby, including a care leaver’s grant.

When she asked Staffordshire County Council to investigate her concerns, it said it could not investigate as too much time had passed. Despite this the council did attempt to answer some of her questions outside the statutory complaints process.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council followed the statutory guidance too rigidly and failed to take into account the advice to consider people’s complaints on a case-by-case basis.

In this case the council had records it could and did refer to when answering some of the young woman’s questions about her time in care and should have done more to consider whether it could investigate her complaint.

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

“Last year we issued specific guidance for councils on getting the children’s statutory complaints process right, because we had found issues with the way councils were considering complaints, and often failing to take them through all three stages of that process where necessary.

“In this case, Staffordshire council did not properly evidence it considered the young woman’s age and vulnerability impeding her complaining at the time of the events, and whether it could still hold a fair and effective investigation when deciding it would not do so.

“I‘m pleased council has now agreed to reconsider that decision, taking into account all relevant factors. If it decides not to investigate, it will tell the woman why and of her right to bring her complaint back to my office.”

Article date: 23 March 2022