A council has been slammed for failing to respond appropriately to child protection referrals or support a kinship carer involved in a case, after an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman.
A damning report, published today, reveals that Kingston upon Hull Council failed to respond to reports and complaints made in 2007 by the aunt of two children who were living with their mother and her violent, mentally ill partner.
The Ombudsman, Anne Seex, concluded that the failings, in the context of child protection, could have had “very serious consequences”.
An initial referral was made to the council by the children’s aunt, followed by two child protection referrals from social workers at a neighbouring authority. One was made after the nephew was threatened with a knife by his mother’s mentally ill partner.
None of the referrals received an appropriate response, the Ombudsman found, and led to a formal complaint from the children’s aunt. She claimed she had been left with no option but to look after her niece, 11, and nephew, 14, with no financial or social care support.
The council did not carry out a thorough assessment of the family after the initial referral, the Ombudsman found, failing to include information from the partner’s mental health and never providing the family with support, even though it recommended this.
After the second referral, a trainee social worker failed to carry out a home visit, as planned, and denied meeting the aunt and neighbouring social worker, even though both provided consistent and credible accounts of a meeting between the three.
Seex said the council’s failure to respond when the nephew was threatened with a knife “could have had very serious consequences” while failures to respond to the child protection concerns or provide support to the family “caused significant uncertainty and distress” to the children’s aunt.
“She had cause to doubt whether Hull Council safeguards children and young people in need,” Seex wrote.
Her investigation found maladministration and recommended the council pay the children’s aunt £7,665 – 25% of the kinship care allowance she would have received while the children lived with her – and instigate reviews to establish whether such failings could still occur.
The council was also ordered to launch a review into its complaints handling procedure. The council accepted the recommendations.
Jon Plant, the council’s head of localities and safeguarding, said there was now “clearer guidance around the process for placement of children within extended family, particularly where families cross boundaries with more than one local authority”.
Systems for record-keeping and complaints procedures have been updated, he said.
“We take our responsibility to support children, young people and families extremely seriously and are continuously seeking to improve services,” Plant added.
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