Councils urged to check information sharing agreements following complaint

Councils are being urged to check they have adequate information sharing agreements with their service providers, after one council was not able to comply with an agreed Ombudsman remedy because it could not get hold of the data needed.

London Borough of Ealing had agreed to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s recommendation to carry out a statutory Children’s Services complaint investigation to remedy a complaint from one of its foster carers.

But despite agreeing to carry out the review, Ealing was unable to access the data it needed from the National Fostering Agency (NFA) which arranged placements on its behalf.

The NFA said it could not provide data about the children the foster carers had looked after because the foster parents did not have the right to request the information.

The Ombudsman’s subsequent investigation found the council had not considered that it was itself acting in loco parentis and therefore had the right to request the children’s information from the agency.

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

“When councils enter into contracts with service providers they need to ensure the different parties’ responsibilities are clear from the outset – this can include areas such as complaints resolution and, as in this case, information sharing.

“Because no such agreement was in place with the agency, a foster carer has been waiting more than two years for her complaint to be resolved by Ealing Council, despite its best intentions to do so.

“I’m pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, and hope the changes it will now make will ensure any future cases will be easier to investigate.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to pay the foster carer £500 to recognise the distress and time and trouble she went to because of the delay.

It will also arrange to obtain the outstanding information it needs to allow the investigation of the foster carer’s complaint.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will review its information sharing agreement with the NFA and other fostering agencies about unfettered access to personal data relating to children it has placed in foster care. It will take steps to amend the cross-borough independent foster care contract it uses to strengthen the information sharing clauses.

Article date: 26 January 2023

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Privacy settings