Fostering and Other Looked After Children
Upheld in whole or in part
Public interest report issued: complaint upheld
Bridgend County Borough Council
Ms F complained on behalf of herself and a young person, Ms G. Ms G confirmed to the Ombudsman that she supported the complaint. Ms F complained that Bridgend County Borough Council had not properly managed the arrangement by which Ms G was living with her by clarifying her status as a Foster Carer or putting anything in place to maintain that arrangement, such as the “When I am Ready” (WIR) Scheme (this supports young people leaving local authority care). She complained that the Council had not given Ms G enough support and assistance after she left its care. She also complained that she was dissatisfied with its complaint handling.
The Ombudsman considered that the Council had not clarified Ms F’s status as a Foster Carer and that it had not been reasonable for the Council to say that Ms G’s placement with Ms F was a private one because it had been party to it. He found that the support given to maintain the arrangement by which Ms G was living with Ms F had been inadequate, after Ms G’s 18 birthday, because of Ms G’s ongoing vulnerability, her care leaver status and the practice principles that local authorities must take into account when engaging with young people who are leaving care and making any decision about them. He said that the family had struggled financially as a result and that that financial strain had placed avoidable pressure on Ms G’s relationship with Ms F. He upheld Ms F’s complaint. He determined that the Council should have made a WIR arrangement for Ms F and Ms G. He noted that the Council’s Pathway planning (planning for a young person’s departure from care and transition to adulthood) and related documentation had been flawed. He found that the support and assistance given to Ms G after she left the Council’s care, in terms of her living arrangement, had been inadequate. He said that the Council’s failure to plan effectively for Ms G’s departure from care meant that she had been denied the opportunity of having an appropriately resourced transitional living arrangement that could have improved her life chances. He also noted that Ms F had suffered financial hardship which could have been avoided. He upheld Ms F’s complaint. He found that the Council, when responding to Ms F’s complaint, had not adhered to the guidance about handling complaints related to Social Services. He said that the investigation of Ms F’s complaint, which had been completed on the Council’s behalf, had not been balanced and gave the impression of partiality. He upheld Ms F’s complaint. He also considered that the Council had failed to show that it had paid due regard to Ms F’s and Ms G’s right to respect for their private and family life, home and correspondence (Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998) when addressing Ms G’s care needs and responding to Ms F’s complaint.
The Ombudsman recommended that the Council should write to Ms F and Ms G to apologise for the failings identified. He also asked it to pay Ms F and Ms G £8,500 each in recognition of the impact that those failings had had on them. He recommended that it should review and revise its Pathway planning documentation in light of his findings and his Professional Adviser’s comments. He asked it to provide Pathway planning training, which addressed its responsibilities under the statutory framework, human rights considerations and their implications for practice when working with young people who are leaving, or have recently left, its care, for relevant staff. He recommended, in terms of complaint handling, that it should conduct a review of its approach to commissioning Independent Investigators and quality control in the scrutinising of commissioned reports. The Council agreed to implement these recommendations.