Berkeley Lifford Hall Accountancy ServicesIQ Legal Training

Ombudsman reminds councils of their foster carer school transport duties

Councils across England are being reminded about the financial support they must provide to foster carers' school transport expenses following an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman into City of Wolverhampton Council.

The warning comes after a foster carer complained the council told her the children she was looking after were not eligible for free school transport, despite living further than the statutory walking distance to their schools. It said the money should come out of their fostering allowance instead, meaning the children had less financial support than other foster children living closer to their schools.

City of Wolverhampton Council initially maintained its policy was correct despite the Ombudsman clarifying its stance in similar reports about other authorities in 2017 and 2018.

During the investigation, the council eventually accepted the Ombudsman's findings and has agreed to apologise to the foster carer and reimburse the travel allowance for the period she transported two of her foster children to and from their schools, at the council's general mileage rate. The council has also offered to pay the foster carer £500 in addition to the other recommendations. It has agreed to review its Fostering Service Terms and Conditions, school transport policy and its procedures to ensure Looked After Children, who are 'eligible' children, receive the free home to school transport they are entitled to.

It will also write to all its foster carers inviting them to complain to the council if they believe they were wrongly denied free home to school transport for their foster children who were eligible, from August 2017.

For the report of the case, click here.