The latest

The latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Ombudsman’s latest child welfare complaints

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published the latest round of complaints submitted by parents and carers to the body and its decisions about those complaints. They touch on children’s social care, local authority handling of child protection cases and the provision of education and educational support.

Researching Reform has put phrases in bold for featured child protection and child contact complaints.

Children and Education

Please note: decisions are published six weeks after they are issued to councils, care providers and the person who has made the complaint. The cases below reflect the caselaw and guidance available at the time of issue and the individual circumstances of each case.

Somerset County Council (21 006 275)

Summary: Mrs X complained the Council failed to provide alternative education for her children and delayed assessing their special educational needs. There was fault in how the Council reviewed its decision following a mediation agreement and how it failed to consider its duty to arrange suitable alternative education. It agreed to apologise to Mrs X and her children, pay them a financial remedy and review its policy and practice.

North Northamptonshire Council (21 007 254)

Summary: Mrs F complains the Council delayed issuing an Education Health and Care Plan for her daughter, J, causing a delay in starting secondary school and distress to Mrs F. The Council has accepted fault and apologised. It has now agreed to make a payment to Mrs F.

Kent County Council (21 008 621)

Summary: Mrs B complained about delays in the education, health and care plan process for her child, C. She also complained the Council failed to provide C with the provision in the plan and suitable education when they were not attending school. We found fault with the Council. The Council agreed actions to remedy the injustice to Mrs B and C.

Kent County Council (21 009 229)

Summary: Mrs D complained the Council delayed dealing with Mr F’s Education, Health and Care plan after the annual review. She also complained the Council delayed responding to the complaint. We find the Council was at fault for its delays in finalising Mr F’s Education, Health and Care plan. It also delayed responding to the complaint. The Council has agreed to our recommendations to address the injustice caused by fault.

Worcestershire County Council (21 017 505)

Summary: We cannot investigate Mr X’s complaints about the accuracy of documents used in Court proceedings. We should not investigate complaint procedure delays, as it is not appropriate to recommend any remedy.

Devon County Council (21 003 770)

Summary: Mrs D complained the Council failed to complete her daughter’s Education, Health and Care needs assessment as directed by the SEND Tribunal, and within the statutory timescales. As a result, Mrs D said she experienced distress and her daughter did not get the support she needed. We found the Council at fault for causing delays and for seeking an unnecessary assessment. It should apologise to Mrs D and make payment to acknowledge the injustice this caused.

Leicester City Council (21 013 267)

Summary: The Council was at fault for a delay in issuing a replacement school bus pass to Mr B’s daughter. It has apologised, and has agreed to make a payment of £41.80 to recognise the amount Mr B paid for school transport during the period of delay.

Plymouth City Council (21 019 138)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s decision not to provide Mrs X’s son transport to and from school. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault by the Council.

Coventry City Council (21 017 194)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the actions of the Council’s children’s services in relation to the care of the complainants child. This is because the matter has been subject to court proceedings.

Somerset County Council (21 017 556)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s child and family assessment. This is because we could not achieve the central outcome the complainant is seeking.

London Borough of Bromley (21 017 953)

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the Council’s actions concerning the care of a child. The matters complained about are not separable from matters that have been considered in court.

North Lincolnshire Council (21 018 075)

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about children services attempts to safeguard a child. It is unlikely we would find fault and we cannot achieve the outcome he seeks.

Essex County Council (21 018 154)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about Mrs X’s husband not being allowed to return to the family home. There is not enough evidence of fault to warrant investigation.

Dorset Council (21 018 529)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about Mrs X not being allowed to see her step grandchildren.

Essex County Council (21 018 638)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about Mr X not being allowed to return to the family home. There is not enough evidence of fault to warrant investigation.

London Borough of Croydon (21 018 809)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about fault in the process of dealing with Mr B’s complaint about the actions of Children’s Services. This is because the complaint has already been upheld and the Ombudsman’s intervention is not warranted.

Warwickshire County Council (21 019 019)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s refusal to give Mr X information about his child’s education. The Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to consider the complaint. Court action would also prevent us from investigating matters that are not separable from that action.

London Borough of Hillingdon (21 016 951)

Summary: Mr and Mrs X complained the Council delayed in issuing their child, Z’s Education Health and Care plan. They also complained about flaws in how the Council considered what educational provision Z needed and what school he should go to. The Council was at fault for failing to consider if Z needed an educational psychology assessment following a review of his plan. This did not cause a significant personal injustice because Mr and Mrs X paid for a private assessment before they were aware of the Council’s error. In the other matters complained about, the Ombudsman is either prevented from investigating, or the Council was not at fault.

Derby City Council (21 018 233)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s decision not to issue an Education Health and Care plan. This is because it is reasonable for Mrs X to appeal to Tribunal.

Birmingham City Council (21 018 694)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the education provided to the complainant’s son. This is because the complainant has appealed to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. The complaint is therefore outside our jurisdiction. We cannot consider complaints about what happens in schools.

Nottinghamshire County Council (21 004 925)

Summary: Mr C complained the Council failed to identify and provide education for his son between November 2019 and February 2020. There is no evidence of fault by the Council. The remainder of the complaint relates to the actions of an academy school which falls outside the Council’s control and the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (21 006 470)

Summary: Mrs X complained the Council delayed finalising her child, Y’s, Education, Health and Care plan and did not ensure they received provision in line with the plan. She also complained about poor complaints handling. The Council was at fault. The delays and poor service have caused Mrs X frustration and distress and Y has missed out on provision. The Council has agreed to offer Mrs X a financial remedy for the injustice caused to herself and Y.

Oxfordshire County Council (21 007 767)

Summary: Ms X complained the Council failed to provide advice and support when she cared for her brother, Z, for fifteen weeks because he was not able to stay at home. The Council was at fault for not clarifying the basis on which Z was staying with her, delay in making a referral to the council where Ms X lives and failing to provide appropriate support. It should apologise, make a payment to reflect the avoidable stress caused and make changes to its processes to prevent this happening again in the future.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (21 010 581)

Summary: Mrs X complained the Council delayed finalising her child, Y’s, Education, Health and Care plan and did not ensure they received provision in line with the plan. She also complained about poor complaints handling. The Council was at fault. The delays and poor service have caused Mrs X frustration and distress and Y has missed out on provision. The Council has agreed to offer Mrs X a financial remedy for the injustice caused to herself and Y.

Norfolk County Council (21 016 989)

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s historic complaint about sexual abuse she suffered in the early 1980’s when she was a child in the Council’s care. The complaint lies outside our jurisdiction because it is late and there are not good grounds to exercise discretion to investigate it now.

Leicestershire County Council (21 018 067)

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the Council’s decision to remove Miss X’s grandchild from her daughter’s care. The matters complained of are not separable from the decision of a court.

London Borough of Hounslow (21 018 437)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about whether the Council’s children services team should have spoken directly with a child. The Courts are now considering the child’s care and we cannot investigate the same issues it is considering.

Northumberland County Council (21 018 585)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council reached its view about where Mr X’s children should live. This is because a court will decide the issue of residence. The matter being complained of is not separable from the court proceedings.

London Borough of Redbridge (21 018 704)

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the complainant’s child seeing a counsellor without his permission. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. The complaint is about what happened in a school, and we have no powers to consider such complaints.

Oxfordshire County Council (21 007 684)

Summary: Ms X complained the Council failed to amend and issue a draft and final Education, Health and Care plan for her son, Z, in line with the statutory timescales following an annual review in January 2021. Ms X further complained the Council failed to provide Z with the provision in his plan for 15 months and an appropriate full-time education for 5 months. There was fault in the Council delaying amending and issuing a final plan, and in providing some of the specified provision. There was no fault in how the Council considered the appropriateness of Z’s education. The Council agreed to pay Z £650 to recognise the injustice caused to him by the missed provision.

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (21 018 519)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint that the Council failed to complete a reassessment of Mr X’s special educational needs. That is because Mr X currently has an appeal with the Tribunal about the provision specified in his Education Health and Care plan which places the matter outside our jurisdiction.

London Borough of Barnet (21 008 239)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council responded to a children’s safeguarding referral. That is because there is insufficient evidence of fault to justify our investigation.

Middlesbrough Borough Council (21 018 687)

Summary: We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint the Council is placing her grandchild for adoption without contact with her. We cannot achieve the outcome Mrs X wants and cannot investigate court decisions.

Lincolnshire County Council (20 010 016)

Summary: Mrs X complained about the Council’s failure to manage her daughter’s EHCP and provide the support she was entitled to. We have found the Council was at fault because it took too long to issue an amended EHCP and as a result did not increase the personal budget when it should have done. These faults caused distress and uncertainty and loss of additional support. To remedy this injustice, the Council has agreed to apologise and make a payment to Mrs X. We have not found fault in other matters complained about. We were unable to investigate Mrs X’s complaint about her daughter’s educational placement because the SEND Tribunal had jurisdiction over this.

East Sussex County Council (21 002 898)

Summary: We upheld a complaint from Miss X on behalf of her son Mr Y about the Council’s handling of his special educational needs provision. The Council failed to secure some of the therapeutic support in Mr Y’s plan. The Council agreed to apologise to Mr Y, make a payment to recognise his lost provision, and review its systems for checking provision is in place.

Bath and North East Somerset Council (21 012 022)

Summary: Mr X complained about the outcome of his home to school transport appeal for his daughter. He said the panel did not properly consider all the information he provided when it denied his request for a taxi as school transport for his daughter. Mr X further complained the Council ignored his communication about the same matter. There was fault in the Council’s record keeping but this did not cause Mr X an injustice as it did not affect the outcome of the appeal.

Thornleigh Salesian College (21 012 082)

Summary: Mr X complains an appeal panel failed to properly consider an appeal for a school place for his brother, Y. We have found School A at fault for failing to ensure the consideration of Y’s appeal was properly documented. School A has agreed to apologise to Y and arrange a fresh appeal hearing to remedy the injustice caused.

Essex County Council (21 017 649)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about an Education, Health and Care Plan. This is because we are satisfied with the actions the Council have taken and have proposed to take.

Wokingham Borough Council (21 017 929)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about school transport for Mrs X’s child. There is not enough evidence of fault by the Council to warrant investigation.

Staffordshire County Council (20 001 918)

Summary: Mrs X complained the Council failed to follow its own safeguarding procedures correctly when it became involved with her and her family. She also complained the Council failed to progress her complaint to Stage 2 after she asked it to. She said this caused her and her family emotional distress and led her to suffer financial loss. There was fault identified in the Council’s management of the safeguarding investigation. The Council has already taken actions to identify the fault but it has agreed to also provide Mrs X with a £800 financial award.

Hampshire County Council (21 016 617)

Summary: The Council was at fault in delaying consideration of Miss B’s complaint at Stage 2 of the statutory procedure for children’s services complaints. The Council has agreed to begin Stage 2 and to offer to make a payment to Miss B.

Essex County Council (21 016 656)

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the contents of a child and family assessment. This is because the events happened too long ago, and I see no reason why the complaint could not have been raised sooner.

Surrey County Council (21 018 022)

Summary: We will uphold Ms X’s complaint, as the Council delayed considering a complaint at stage two of its corporate complaints’ procedure. The Council has agreed to complete its stage two without further delay and make a payment for the delay so far.

Worcestershire County Council (21 018 159)

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about children service’s actions, as it is unlikely we would find fault.

Blackpool Borough Council (21 018 293)

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the actions of a social worker relating to a child’s care. This is because the law prevents us from investigating matters which have been decided in court.

Hampshire County Council (21 016 242)

Summary: We should not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s complaints procedure. There are no good reasons why the late complaint rule should not apply.

Government ‘commits’ to children’s social care reform

The Department for Education said it would set out new measures to improve support for vulnerable children and families in Britain, following the publication of a final report by the country’s latest review of children’s social care.

LexisNexis provides a very good summary of this development, an extract of which is added below:

“The Department for Education (DfE) has announced that it is setting out new measures to improve and fundamentally shift the lives of England’s most vulnerable children and families following the recommendations in Josh MacAlister’s independent review of children’s social care.

The measures include setting up a National Implementation Board, working with local authorities to strengthen efforts to recruit more foster carers, reframing and refocusing the support social workers receive in their early careers, joining up data from across the public sector, and developing a National Children’s Social Care Framework.

According to the DfE, seven areas of England will receive funding to set up family hubs and local authorities will receive funding for its schemes and continued delivery of the Social Workers in Schools and Designated Safeguarding Lead Supervision programmes.”

Some of the measures have concerned child welfare campaigners and social workers engaged in reforming the system, who believe the measures are likely to increase the forced removal of children through unnecessary government intervention. They say the proposals could lead to government bodies being given more powers to remove children at will, rather than offering appropriate support which would keep families together.

Other campaigners have criticised the review for failing to look carefully at SEND children and disabled families, and for largely ignoring key issues inside the sector.

The review’s final report can be accessed here.

Webinar: Accessing support as a parent with a disabled or SEND child

Welcome to another week.

An online conference taking place on Tuesday May 24 and hosted by the International Parent Advocacy Network (IPAN) says it will focus on parents of disabled and special educational needs and disability (SEND) children and their experiences of trying to secure support inside the children’s social care sector.

Tracey Norton, an advocate for the Support Not Separation campaign and co-ordinator for the Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign, will be on the panel for the event.

IPAN’s statement about the event said:

“IPAN in partnership with Parents Families and Allies Network (PFAN) are proud to present – this webinar on the culture of blame and shame experienced by families who seek support for their children with SEND and disabilities.

Across the globe there is an awareness of the need to tackle disability discrimination and the need to achieve support for children from the earliest ages in order for the greatest opportunity for inclusion, success, wellbeing and outcomes.

Unfortunately, parents and carers are reporting lengthy battles and experiences of being accused of neglect and harm.

Where health symptoms are not readily understood parents are facing accusations of FII (Fabricated or Induced Illness), PP (perplexing presentations) and MSBP [Munchausen syndrome by proxy].

Parents seeking vital support for their children in schools are facing attacks on their character, refusal to acknowledge diagnosis and reports of neglect.

Child welfare/ Children and families social work has an important role within this area.

In this webinar, we hear from parents and professionals about what their experiences are and how we are being led away from inclusion and support through fear-based practice and a lack of resources.”

The event starts at 4pm and finishes at 5.30pm.

Anyone wishing to attend can register using the conference’s Eventbrite page.

The latest

These are the latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar:

Former care worker killed baby she was given to adopt because she couldn’t stop him crying

Former care worker Lauran Castle was found guilty of killing one-year-old Leiland-James Corkhill because he wouldn’t stop crying.

Leiland-James was a looked-after child in Cumbria, and had been placed for adoption with Lauran and he husband Scott Castle. Social services were aware that Castle had decided she didn’t love Leiland-James and had called him a spate of awful names, including “top t***” and “s*** bag”, while her husband had called him a d*** baby”, “fat s***” and “toss bag”.

In one text message exchange published by Manchester Evening News, Scott said, ” I think he’s a little too f***ed up for us to handle. Let’s just call it quits. I don’t want you to have a mental break down. Your more important to me than him.”

Lauran also admitted to hitting the baby during an earlier exchange.

Little Leiland-James died on January 7 due to what medical experts told the court was a degree of force which would have been “severe” and most likely a combination of shaking and hitting the child against a solid surface.

While social services knew there were issues and had been made aware of Lauran’s feelings towards the baby, a clear reluctance to engage in the exercise of a new placement meant that the local authority staff left Leiland-James with Lauran, despite having decided they wouldn’t be approving the adoption.

Abuse at the hands of foster carers and prospective adopters is not uncommon.

According to the latest government data, fostered children in England made 1,585 allegations of abuse against their foster carers from 2020 to 2021, while a further 1,015 complaints about suspected child abuse perpetrated by foster carers were made by “other sources” according to Ofsted’s “Fostering in England” release published in November. The sources were not identified in the release.

Some children like Leiland-James are too small to raise their voices, while others remain afraid to speak out. And nothing is mentioned by local authorities and adoption agencies about the very sophisticated level of care children inside the system need. It is not ‘basic’ parenting — which is hard enough at the best of times — or parenting for people who don’t have the ability or don’t want to dedicate their lives to learning how to care for a truly unique little person with a large set of needs.

Rest in peace lovely Leiland-James.

In the news

Welcome to another week.

These are the latest child welfare items that should be right on your radar: