A London grandmother who took on the care of her grandson is to receive four years-worth of backdated foster payments from the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
She had taken in her grandson when social workers in the Borough grew concerned that the boy’s mother couldn’t look after him properly and said they would start care proceedings unless she became a so-called ‘friends and family’ foster carer for the youngster. But they did not inform her that she would likely be entitled to official help with her fostering expenses.
Over the next few years the grandmother suffered increasingly severe financial hardships. She ran up debts and complained that she had no carpets and little furniture, was sleeping on a mattress on the floor and couldn’t afford to heat her home in winter. She repeatedly asked the council for financial assistance but was refused each time.
Finally the council relented, acknowledged her circumstances and agreed to pay her £129 per week. But four years had passed by that point and they refused to backdate the payments to when she had first began looking after her grandson.
She complained to the Local Government Ombudsman, who has now concluded that the Borough should have properly assessed her financial circumstances when she became a foster carer, and that it had repeatedly failed to do so in the subsequent four years
Ombudsman Michael King said councils must be aware of their duties in such cases, especially when the affected families are vulnerable.
“When they are involved in making care arrangements, councils must give families clear information about the help available to them and who will be financially responsible for the child.”
“Greenwich council missed numerous opportunities to help this grandmother and, when it did realise its duty towards her and her grandson, decided not to backdate the support she was due. This must have had a significant impact on the boy’s welfare.”
In addition to the backdated payments, the council has agreed to issue an apology and to pay the grandmother a further £500 in compensation for distress caused.
A spokesman for the council explained:
“The Council has accepted the findings of the report and is implementing the recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman. The report acknowledged that the case is historical and improvements that have been made since, including that Children’s Services are now rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted. It was also acknowledged that the Council correctly interpreted the law on backdating payments but the Ombudsman decided to rule in favour of the complainant. The Council has accepted this position, has apologised and awarded compensation.”
The Local Government Ombudsman’s report is available here.
Photo of Greenwich by Daniel Case via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence