A dispute between two councils over responsibility for the care of a six-year-old boy with severe health problems should never have reached the High Court, according to a report by Scotland’s Social Work Inspection Agency.
The child, who suffers from a heart condition, was born in Orkney but was moved into the foster care of a couple in Cambridgeshire. While Orkney Islands initially offered financial assistance to the foster parents, it later said Cambridgeshire should take responsibility.
A drawn-out dispute between the councils ensued, until the child’s foster carers eventually took the case to the High Court for a resolution.
“While acknowledging the complexities of this case, this review has concluded that the dispute should never have got to the High Court and that events came to be dominated by legal process and interpretation, rather than the best interests of the child,” said chief inspector of social work in Scotland Alexis Jay.
“Failure to agree about many aspects of the case has resulted in delays to some important decisions being made. This has directly impacted on the support to the child and his carers at various stages.”
The High Court ruled that Cambridgeshire should take responsibility for the child and the financial support involved.
Despite criticism of this case, the inspectorate said it did not believe the dispute was indicative of a systematic, widespread problem. The report did say, however, that the case highlighted a need for clarity when matters spanning difference jurisdictions arise.