Family Law WeekBerkeley Lifford Hall Accountancy ServicesHousing Law WeekFamily Law WeekAlphabiolabs

Children’s Services lost contact with disabled child for more than four years

Birmingham girl with special needs ‘lost in the system’

A Birmingham child with special needs was lost in the system for more than four years, a report by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has found.
Social workers identified the girl, who has complex needs including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia and communication difficulties, as a disabled child in November 2006 when she was seven-years-old.

At that time, the girl's mother was provided with 10 hours per month of support, despite not having had an assessment completed. The council then lost sight of the girl until March 2011 – and when they did contact the family, social workers' assessment of the girl's situation was flawed, and did not fully consider either the girl's needs or those of her mother, a single parent with little family support.

The council promised three further assessments of the girl's needs between January 2012 and May 2013, none of which was carried out properly. The mother also complained to the LGO in December 2012, at which time the council agreed to complete a core assessment - but social workers failed to carry this out.

By July 2013 the girl was 15 and her difficulties had increased, she struggled with her posture and stability, she had sensory difficulties, trouble sleeping and needed help with toileting, bathing and getting dressed. The council's disabled children's services had not completed or offered a separate carer's assessment for the mother.

The council continued to provide the 10 hours payments it identified in 2006, but there was no indication to show which of the girl's needs that was to meet, or why that level of payment was considered appropriate. The LGO investigation found that this report was not fit for purpose.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

"For much of this girl's life, her mother has been left to bring up her child alone and without much help from the council. Birmingham City Council has had no idea what her needs were or those of her mother. And when they made attempts to assess her, the council admits its service was poor, unsupportive and not focused on an outcome for the girl.

"The council has failed to provide me with evidence that it knows what this girl's needs are, what her mother's needs are as a carer and how those needs can be met in the future. It has singularly failed to assess the family's needs and cannot possibly say that the direct payments it has offered to the family are sufficient."

Birmingham City Council has agreed to pay the mother a remedy of £4,000 for failing to assess properly the needs of the girl and her mother between November 2006 and March 2011. The council has also agreed to pay the mother £1,000 for the time and trouble in bringing the complaint to the ombudsman. The council will also pay the mother an amount, at a level set by the ombudsman, following an independent assessment of the girl's needs for any shortfall in service received from August 2011 onwards.

The council will also appoint an independent social worker to assess the girl's needs and her mother's needs as a carer. The social worker will also produce a care plan if it is identified that there are needs which require support from the resource panel to consider.

The council will also reimburse the mother for up to three days' unpaid leave from work to enable her to engage fully with the independent social worker to complete the assessments within the timescales allowed.