Complaints about local authority children’s services increased by 53 per cent in the year to March, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has reported.
The commissioners investigated 1,496 such complaints re in 2012-2013, up from 980 the previous year. This is, they say, “a significant and national problem”.
In the newly published report, the LGO examines the plight of people who take on the children of relatives and friends. Many are untreated unfairly and even unlawfully by their local authorities, it claims.
The report, Family values: Council services to family and friends who care for others’ children, contains evidence suggesting that some councils:
*treat family and friends foster carers less favourably than their own foster carers – paying them a lower allowance for example.
*refuse family and friends foster carers financial support altogether despite their legal obligation to assist “looked after children”, and despite often helping to place the children with the carers in first place.
*fail to properly assess the suitability of some family and friends foster carers, placing children at risk of harm.
Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said:
“The cases in this report show examples where children and their families, some of whom are very vulnerable and at risk, are being treated unfairly. They highlight the importance of fair treatment so that all children have the best start in life and the best possible support to make their own way and contribute effectively as adults.”
“I hope this report will assist councils in meeting their statutory obligations, and that it helps to initiate a cultural shift to recognise the efforts of all foster carers.”
The Local Government Ombudsman investigates complaints about councils and similar organisations.