Liverpool Council ordered to pay thousands after foster complaint ‘injustice’

Liverpool Council has paid out thousands of pounds in compensation to a former foster couple after removing a child from their care without explanation.

An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care ombudsman found the city council had caused an injustice towards a couple known as Mr and Mrs X in the way it handled their care. The authority placed a child – Y – in their care between 2017 and 18 before they were removed owing to concerns around their parenting.

Owing to delays and faults in how their case was handled, the Ombudsman has ordered Liverpool Council to award £5,000 to remedy the issue.

In its stage one response to an initial complaint by the couple in June 2019, Liverpool Council said it had “identified some questionable practice and decision-making with regards to [Y] being moved to another foster care placement in the way that [they were].” It also acknowledged “the process was not carried out correctly or fairly”, that Mr and Mrs X “were not given any reason for the decision to move” Y and that the council failed to properly prepare them for a meeting after Y was removed from their care.

The council invited Mr and Mrs X to meet with managers from the fostering service to discuss their complaint further.

Shortly after a second stage investigation began, the appointed independent person raised concerns with the council about the conduct of the first investigating officer, leading to their removal. The complaint was subsequently reappointed to be looked into in February 2020 and Liverpool Council said this took longer than anticipated, paying the couple £500 in recognition of their frustration.

The secondary investigation upheld some elements of the complaint, including inadequate training for foster carers at the time Mr and Mrs X took on caring for Y, particularly with the child’s difficulties. Additionally, social workers should have provided more support to Mrs X when she raised concerns about Y’s contact with their birth parents rather than just stating this was court ordered and could not be changed.

It was said Y’s social worker did not have enough evidence to reasonably decide that Mrs X was refusing, or would refuse, to comply with contact arrangements between Y and their birth family; and Y’s social worker only considered one side of a conversation Mrs X had with a third party when deciding to change Y’s placement and did not give Mrs X the opportunity to respond to the concerns until after Y had been removed from their care.

The investigation established an allegation by Liverpool Council that Mrs X had negative feelings about their foster child were made “without any evidence and was based on misrepresented or misreported statements.” Additionally, the council removed Y from Mr and Mrs X’s care without any notice and Mrs X only found out about this when three social workers attended her home to remove Y.

Social workers did not discuss their concerns about how Mr and Mrs X were caring for Y, did not inform them of the reasons for the change in placement or give them an opportunity to respond, with the council only discussing reasons for removal after it had happened.

Last year, Mr X and the council met to discuss his complaint further, in which Mr X was offered a financial remedy of £5,000. This was rejected because he felt the council’s actions had led to a significant loss of earnings during the past several years during which he and Mrs X were unable to foster children.

A third stage complaint investigation found there had been a lack of evidence from a nursery regarding injuries sustained by Y and therefore not enough information to make a finding there had been no ill intentions on the part of Y’s social worker when raising concerns about this.

Liverpool Council has also offered to meet Mr and Mrs X to work towards reinstating their fostering authorisation. However, Mr and Mrs X have, so far, declined these offers.

In its findings, the Ombudsman said there were delays in the statutory complaints process and the council failed to properly remedy the injustice caused by the fault it accepted. The Council agreed to fully apologise to Mr and Mrs X, pay them a financial remedy and work to restore their fostering authorisation.

A spokesperson for Liverpool Council said, “Whilst we cannot comment on the specifics of this case, we accept the Ombudsman’s findings and fully apologise for the distress and upset that have been caused. The findings show that how we dealt with this complaint fell short of the service that Liverpool’s residents rightly expect to receive from us.

“We have reflected on the failings highlighted by the report and our working practices have been improved.”

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