National Ombudsmen
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Child at risk of gang violence because of council failings

A four-year-old child was placed at risk of gang violence because Croydon council did not do enough to check on them and their mother when their uncle was released from prison and allowed to live with them, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The child’s young mother left foster care in 2016 shortly after her 18th birthday. Despite the council having a legal duty to make sure the mother and child had a suitable place to live, for the next five years they lived in accommodation which she could not afford. Consequently the mother was left with significant rent arrears.

The woman’s younger brother left prison in 2018 and needed a fixed address because he was being monitored by the police. The young woman felt she had no option but to house him, despite him being at risk of gang-related violence, and had received threats before at gunpoint. She also gave up the second year of her university course to ensure her brother was safe.

The woman complained to the council about the lack of support she and her brother received when she left the council’s care. She then complained to the Ombudsman because she was not happy with the council’s response.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council had not done enough to fully acknowledge or remedy the distress caused by its actions. It also criticised the way the council handled aspects of the woman’s complaint.

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

“The young woman at the centre of this case has told me how she lived in fear during the time her brother lived with her, with the very credible risk of him and her home being targeted by violent gangs. She felt she had to give up her university course to keep the household safe.

“Despite this, the council could not show any evidence it had looked into the risk this posed to the woman’s young child, who was only four years old at the time.

“I’m pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, and hope the remedies it will now provide for the young woman will go some way to getting her life back on track after her distressing experiences.”

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 £9,250 plus any interest to the Student Finance Company to recognise the impact on the woman’s university studies and the debt she incurred. It will also pay her £1,000 to recognise the significant distress she suffered while living in unaffordable accommodation and for the credible fear she endured while providing an unregulated placement for her brother.

The council has also agreed to pay her £300 to recognise the avoidable time and trouble she experienced during the complaints process.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to carry out work to understand why, when it was aware both young people were at risk of harm, it did not find out whether it needed to safeguard the woman’s child.

It will also ensure all staff in its care leavers’ service understand their duty to ensure young people leaving care are supported to find suitable and affordable accommodation.

Related Content: London Borough of Croydon (21 008 544)

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