A council has been criticised for the “injustice” it caused to a family after it failed to interview children who made allegations of abuse against a foster carer.
The Local Government Ombudsman said Dudley council was guilty of “maladministration”, in its report published last week, after the council did not interview an adoptive mother or her two children, who accused their previous foster carer of physically abusing them.
The carer was alleged to have smacked the children, made one wear a nappy meant for a disabled child, and had given them cold baths. The children were four and five-years-old when they were adopted by the mother, known as Miss B.
The mother also complained to the council that personal items of the girls didn’t travel with them, and the council “did not deal with this effectively for eight months after promising Miss B to recover the children’s belongings”, the Ombudsman said.
Dudley council told the Ombudsman it did not pursue the allegations further because the potential harm that could be caused to the children by interviewing them outweighed the evidence the council might obtain.
However, the report found that Dudley council failed to follow its own ‘serious concern’ procedure for when allegations of abuse were made.
“The council did not deal with the allegations properly,” the ombudsman report said. “While we appreciate there was no ongoing risk to the children, it is serious fault for the council to fail to listen properly to allegations from young and vulnerable children.”
Dudley council has been asked to apologise to the adoptive mother and agree a plan for how it will interview the children. It was recommended that the council pay the adoptive mother and two children £200 each. It should also review how it investigates allegations, the Ombudsman said.
Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said “the children themselves must be central to the complaint to ensure that their needs are met”.
Responding to the report, Ian Cooper, cabinet member for children’s services at Dudley council, said its handling of the case did not meet its own standards.
Cooper said: “We are currently going through a fundamental and comprehensive restructure in our children’s services directorate to make sure it can meet the challenges facing local government, while at the same time ensuring looked-after children have the best care and support for their start in life. In this case, which dates back to 2012, we have acknowledged the report from the Ombudsman and we will be following up the recommendations made.”