Fostering. Looked after children. and SGOs
Upheld in whole or in part
Non-public interest report issued: complaint upheld
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council
We investigated a complaint from Mrs A that the Council did not implement the recommendation made by a Stage 2 Independent Investigator in relation to the payment of a special guardianship allowance (“SGO allowance”), and that its decision to do so was unreasonable. The recommendation was that the Council should pay Mrs A and her husband, Mr A, an amount equating to the sum they would have been paid had a special guardianship allowance been provided since the date of their grandson, B’s, arrival with them.
The Ombudsman found that the decision not to implement the Stage 2 Independent Investigator’s recommendation was unreasonable. There was a failure by the Council to take account of relevant facts and clearly document its rationale for arriving at its decision not to follow the Stage 2 recommendation. The Council’s decision to refuse financial support on the basis that only looked after children (“LAC” – a child is looked after by a local authority if a court has granted a care order to place a child in care, or a council’s children’s services department has cared for the child for more than 24 hours) were eligible for consideration for financial support was flawed. The Council also failed to meet its obligations under relevant special guardianship regulations despite an identified financial shortfall following assessment and a decision.
The Council agreed to apologise to Mr and Mrs A for the identified failings, calculate the amount of SGO allowance Mr and Mrs A would have been paid from the date the SGO was granted to the date of a goodwill gesture, and pay Mr and Mrs A the amount of financial redress once the calculation was agreed with the Ombudsman. In addition, the Council agreed to carry out an audit of other non “Looked After” children who lived with special guardians from 2015 to identify if financial support was declined because the child was not a LAC and carry out a fresh assessment of these cases.
The Council agreed to share the outcome of the audit with the Ombudsman and the Council’s Governance and Audit Committee.