National Ombudsmen
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Two councils criticised for handling of allegations made by a foster child

The Ombudsman has issued a report criticising the way Peterborough City Council and Lincolnshire County Council dealt with allegations made by a foster child against her foster carer’s daughters.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, has today  issued a report criticising the way Peterborough City Council and Lincolnshire County Council dealt with allegations made by a foster child against her foster carer’s daughters. The foster carer complained that the investigation was badly managed and unnecessarily protracted. The Ombudsman says, “In my view, the most significant failing in this case is that the two councils did not communicate effectively with each other to agree how to work together, to ensure that Ms S was properly informed and supported during this intensely difficult period.”

Ms S was a foster carer working for Peterborough City Council and living in Lincolnshire County Council’s area. In 2007 a child she had fostered made an allegation about Ms S’s younger daughter. The same child made a second allegation later in the year about her older daughter, which prompted a further investigation by Lincolnshire County Council. This was discontinued in May 2008, a year after the first allegation had been made, but the outcome was not made clear to Ms S, or to Peterborough City Council, which had suspended her as a foster carer in the meantime.

When Ms S complained to Lincolnshire County Council, in December 2008, she was told that Peterborough City Council should have provided her with support. When she then complained to Peterborough City Council, in January 2009, Lincolnshire County Council did not provide information which officers at Peterborough City Council wanted in order to make a comprehensive response to Ms S. As a result of its own investigation, Peterborough City Council acknowledged its share of responsibility for the poor way in which the investigations into the allegations had been handled.

The Ombudsman found there were delays in the investigation of the first allegation, and that the two councils did not co-ordinate the provision of appropriate support and information for Ms S. As a result, she had to wait until September 2009 for information which might reasonably have been provided to her as early as July 2007. This caused her unnecessary distress and uncertainty.

The Ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice and recommended that both councils should pay Ms S £1,000 to compensate her for the uncertainty and avoidable distress arising from the maladministration identified, and a further £250 for her time and trouble in pursuing her complaint – £2,500 in all. Both councils have agreed to these recommendations, and Dr Martin welcomes their positive response.

The names used in the report are not the real names, for legal reasons.

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