Buckinghamshire Council caused significant distress after it shared incorrect information and failed to suitably include a mother in its process when deciding to place her child on a child protection plan, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
In October 2020, the council received a referral in which concerns were raised about a child, referred to as Child A, over her mother’s personal relationship with a man.
The council decided to investigate and carried out an assessment of the risks the man posed to Child A. This included carrying out a section 47 enquiry to gather information.
The council then called an initial child protection conference (ICPC) to decide whether to place Child A on a child protection plan. It presented the information from the assessment, the section 47 enquiry and information from other professionals.
At the ICPC, the mother raised that the information in the assessment was wrong and should not have been shared with the ICPC. She also said that information from other professionals was incorrect. She also voiced concerns that the council had not shared the information with her and that it had excluded her from the assessment.
Despite this, the council resolved to place the child on a child protection plan.
A month later, the mother complained to the council, claiming it had called the ICPC and placed her child on a child protection plan based on false information. She also complained about how the council had communicated with her and involved her in the assessment.
Her complaint eventually escalated to a stage two complaint. In the stage two response, the council accepted that incorrect information was presented at the ICPC. It also recognised that a social worker should have visited the mother to discuss the case and gone through the assessment with her before the conference.
The council also upheld that incorrect information from other professionals was shared at the conference. It apologised for leaving her feeling left out of the assessment and unable to voice her concerns or accurately portray her circumstances.
Nevertheless, the council did not feel this significantly impacted the professional decision to place Child A on a child protection plan.
The mother remained unhappy with the response and complained to the Ombudsman.
Following an investigation, the Ombudsman found fault with the council for failing to include her in the ICPC process suitably. It also found fault for failing to suitably consider and address her subsequent concerns about incorrect information.
In addition, the council was at fault for not suitably considering the impact on the mother and her child, the Ombudsman said.
Buckinghamshire agreed to several recommendations made by the Ombudsman. Firstly, the local authority will share the decision and the outcomes of the further investigation with staff and highlight where lessons can be learnt.
It will review how it considers injustice and impact where complaints are upheld.
In addition, the council will review the outcomes of the further investigation at stage 2.
Anita Cranmer, the local authority's Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Buckinghamshire Council fully accepts the finding of the Ombudsman with regards to this case. We are truly sorry for the stress and upset this has caused to the parties involved and we undertake to improve our systems and procedures to ensure that similar incidents do not happen in the future. Our aim is always to put the safety of the child at the forefront of everything we do and we continue to work with families and professionals to ensure that this remains our number one priority.”