Local government ombudsman Anne Seex has slammed the former Cheshire Council for “comprehensive and spectacular failures” after a child in its care was prevented from ever attending secondary school by her mentally-ill mother.
The girl, known as L, who is now aged 20, complained to the ombudsman with the help of the National Youth Advocacy Service after being dissatisfied with how an earlier complaint to the council was handled.
In 2000 L was taken out of primary school by her mother, who was prone to volatile, violent and sometimes “bizarre” behaviour, according to the report.
Significant periods without any education
The council took parental responsibility through a care order granted in February 2002 when L was 12-and-a-half. However, she continued to live with her mother and although she received some one-to-one tutoring she did not attend secondary school and was left with significant periods without any education.
In her original complaint to the council L said: “Why did children’s services place me with my mother when they knew that she was so violent? They always used to come with two people to see us as they were scared but yet they left little kids with her.
“Why was nothing done about my education? I did not go to school after primary school. I wanted to, I did.”
Social workers criticised
Although L had expressed desire to stay with mother, she said that the council should have made more of an effort to safeguard her welfare. She criticised social workers for speaking to her infrequently and for only seeing her when her mother was present.
In her complaint to the ombudsman she said: “They are making it seem like they were being good to me, listening to me and allowing me not to go to school.”
In her ruling, Seex said there had been “numerous, serious, specific failures”. She ruled that the council had not properly assessed L’s needs and that it should have secured her a suitable education.
She recommended that Cheshire East Council, which succeeded Cheshire Council following a local government reorganisation this year, apologise to L and grant her access to leaving care services until she reaches the age of 25.
In addition, the council was urged to provide financial support to help with her education, pay £1,500 in compensation for the time taken up by the complaint and £45,000 to either help her buy a home or to invest in a long-term interest account.
Seex said: “Although she is succeeding in her current chosen career, it is not secure and her lack of education and qualifications may become a major disadvantage for her. The injustice cause to L by the council’s maladministration is long term and enduring.”
Cheshire East considers recommendations
A Cheshire East Council spokesperson said: “Cheshire East and Chester West and Chester Councils are considering the findings and recommendations of the ombudsman in respect of maladministration in the case of a young person who was cared for by Cheshire County Council.”