National Ombudsmen
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Milton Keynes did not do enough to support woman

A Milton Keynes woman who agreed to care for a relative’s child when they no longer could, is to be offered £30,000 after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council did not do enough to help ease their overcrowded living conditions.

The woman took over the care of a young relative under a Special Guardianship Order (SGO), which was arranged with the council. Initially she had joint care of the child with her parents, but her parents struggled to cope and the child came to live with the woman full time.

However, there was not enough space in the woman’s two bedroomed property, which she shares with her adult son. The child was forced to share a bedroom with the woman. The council initially suggested that the adult son move out to a YMCA property to make room and offered the son a small amount to do so.

The mother and son both said this was not enough and she needed her son’s help to care for the child.

Alternatives were suggested, which included an extension to the woman’s current property or for her to rent out her home and then rent a larger property. Neither was suitable.

The woman was also asked to provide details of the amount it would cost to purchase a larger property over and above what she had paid for her two-bedroom property. But the council rejected this option as it was too costly.

The council offered the woman and her son increasing amounts for him to move out, but these were limited time offers, would not have given him any security and failed to recognise the importance of his caring help.

During the LGSCO investigation, the council increased its offer to the family to £30,000 to be used as either a deposit for a house, or to support the adult son to move to a larger property.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council was not clear with the family about the support it would offer prior to them taking on the SGO. It also found there was a 12-month delay in completing a needs assessment.

The investigation also criticised the way the council failed to consider a detailed social work report, looking at the child’s welfare if the adult son moved out of the property. It has also not shown how it has calculated its financial offer to the family, which is fault.

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

“Because of the lack of support from the council, the woman says she has been left living in unsuitable conditions and been put under significant stress. The strain has also affected her relationship with her mother and stepfather.

“I am pleased the council has now offered a significant amount to the family which we believe is fair and hope this will go some way to helping alleviate their accommodation issues.”

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 apologise to the woman, pay her £30,000 for the accommodation and a further £500 to recognise the time and trouble she went to.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review how it agrees and arranges special guardianship care order plans to ensure they are clear on the support, including financial help, it will provide.

It will also carry out training for members of panels that consider requests for SGO payments to ensure they are aware of the need to consider any social work reports and record the reasons for its decisions where it decides not to follow the social work recommendation.

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