Lambeth Council’s failure to provide support for a young man leaving its care has highlighted that some local authorities still “avoid their obligations” to care leavers, according to a solicitor acting for the man.
Lara ten Caten, a solicitor at Hansen Palomares in London, said councils often “don’t do what they should be doing” for care leavers.
Local government ombudsman Jerry White ordered Lambeth to pay £5,000 to Mr Smith (not his real name) for failing to give him support, advice and assistance.
Burden on councils
Ten Caten, who has also acted in a complaint against Southwark, a neighbouring authority of Lambeth, said the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 and associated regulations had “placed a burden on councils that they didn’t want to be placed”.
“Councils often outsource their responsibilities to contractors, so they have very little control over what’s going on,” she said.
Ten Caten also said some personal advisers allocated to young people when they turned 18 and left care were not strong enough in representing their interests to councils.
“One of the problems is that because these young people are so vulnerable, they don’t usually get a voice or are fully empowered to complain,” she added.
Mr Smith was in Lambeth’s care from February 2000, when he was 13. He had bouts of reactive depression and ten Caten claimed the council had failed to take account of his vulnerability.
The ombudsman said Lambeth social services did not assess Mr Smith’s needs, including his financial needs, in 2006 before he started a diploma course. There were shortcomings in pathway plans prepared in March 2006, September 2006 and March 2007, and failure to follow through on agreed action.
He also ordered Lambeth to give £2,000 to charity Kids Company, which had provided Mr Smith with therapeutic care and financial support “in absence of effective support from the council”.
A Lambeth spokesperson said the council “accepts the findings of the report and has already implemented the recommendations made”. The spokesperson added: “We are absolutely committed to providing the best possible support to our young people leaving care.”