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Local authority failed to support abandoned child, Ombudsman finds

Kent CC did not properly assess whether complainant should be a looked after child

Kent County Council failed to provide proper support to a boy when he became homeless after his parents had abandoned him, a report by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has found.

The LGO has upheld a complaint from the boy that he was let down by the council, when it failed to deal with his requests for accommodation and welfare support over a two year period.

In February 2011, at the age of sixteen, the complainant was made homeless after his parents left the family home without making alternative arrangements for his welfare. Whilst he was offered alternative foster accommodation at the time from the council, the complainant did not feel able to accept this for various reasons. He therefore continued to 'sofa surf' with friends and relatives.

The Ombudsman's investigation (accessible from the 'downloads' column on this page) found that the council did not properly assess whether the complainant should be a 'looked after' child under its care. The council should have clearly explained the benefits of becoming a looked after child, and the investigation found that there was no record of this taking place.

As a looked after child, the complainant would have been entitled to services such as an allocated social worker, as well as proper planning for the transition to adulthood after leaving care. It is also likely that on leaving care he would have been made an offer of housing when 18 by the relevant housing authority.

Nigel Ellis, Executive Director for Investigations at the LGO, said:

"Because of the fault of the council, this vulnerable person was denied access to key welfare services that he was entitled to and that the council has a duty to provide. I believe that if he was given the right information about the benefits of being under the council's care, the complainant would have accepted them."

The Local Government Ombudsman has recommended that Kent County Council now confirm the complainant as a leaving care child, and inform the relevant local housing authority. It should also set aside £3,000 for the injustice caused to him, which should be used in conjunction with the leaving care team to promote his independent living.

The council has agreed to recommendations made by the LGO.