Local Gov. Ombudsman Findings Nov 2013 Regarding non authority carers
145,000 children in England cared for by friends and relatives. This number is on the rise. The increase was 260% from 1991 to 2001. The 2001-2011 stats are still being analysed but a significant rise is also expected.
Local councils have an obligation to provide financial and practical support for carers. From 2009 to 2013 ther has been a 53% increase in complaints received.
Informal family care arrangements
Family and friends carers often do not understand whether the child they are caring for should have ‘looked after’ status or whether the care they are providing is considered an informal family care arrangement. Without appropriate information from councils they are unable to make an informed decision when initially agreeing to care for the child.
1.Failing to recognise a child as a ‘looked after child’ so not providing support.
2.Not giving information about what support is available.
3.Failing to make background checks of carers before placements.
4.Councils systemically pay more to authority foster carers than than non authority carers
5.Councils failing to consider exceptional circumstances.
Ombudsman Recommendations to Councils:
1.Create a care policy and follow that care policy
2.Keep good records of decisions and information offered
3.Consider child’s view and whether placing with family is suitable
4.Pay the correct rates to non authority carers – the same as professional carers
5.Policy must take into account exceptional circumstances for carers with special guardianship or residence
6.Must provide documentable evidence for any departure from government guidelines
7.Appropriate and timely background checks to made of carers.
Questions that elected people could ask of the local council:
1. Has the council published a clear policy on family and friends carers?
2. Are the rates to carers being paid in accordance with statutory guidance?
3. Are decisions about providing support being made based on the child’s needs as opposed to financial constraints?
4. Are timely checks being made with family and friends carers to ensure the suitability of any new arrangement?
5. What complaints have been made about family and friends carers, what are the outcomes and how has the council used them to improve its services?
Download Ombudsman’s full report here
Visit the local government ombudsman at www.lgo.org.uk
To complaint about a council ring 0300 061 0614 for the local government ombudsman.