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Council to pay looked after child £10k for loss of suitable education, following Ombudsman investigation

The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has agreed to pay more than £10,000 to a looked after child after an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) found the quality of care he received impacted his education and relationship with his family.

The complainant went into foster care in 2016, aged 14. Kingston placed him in a residential unit that had educational provision in another council's area. However, no record was found by the Ombudsman of an effort by a senior manager to consider how the move could affect his education or of whether he had special educational needs that should be assessed.

Later in the same year, a review mistakenly said that the boy could do GCSEs at his residential unit, but this was in fact not an option as the unit only provided functional skills courses. An application was then made to a mainstream school which was refused and not pursued by the local authority. The boy did not achieve any GCSEs as a result.

In its investigation, the Ombudsman found further issues with the management of the boy’s relationship with his family. In March 2017, the court granted the council a care order which agreed that the boy should have fortnightly unsupervised, direct contact with his mother. However, the investigation found no evidence showing the plan was implemented.

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A year later, another proposal to arrange contact was made but neglected for a second time.

During this time at his initial residential placement, the complainant reported inappropriate behaviour by staff. Following this, a referral was made to a LADO, leading to the suspension of a teacher.

In 2019, following a move to a new placement in London, he complained a second time of staff behaviour towards him. A police investigation ensued, but the complainant was unsatisfied.

Following the Ombudsman's investigation, Kingston accepted it was at fault and apologised to the complainant.

In particular, the Ombudsman found that the council failed to ensure Mr D received a suitable education from September 2016 to July 2018 (about 17 school months). As a result, he lost the opportunity to achieve GCSEs he was capable of attaining. This was a significant injustice to Mr D, causing possible long-term disadvantage, the Ombudsman found.

The report, which was completed in June 2021 but included recently in the LGSCO's published decisions, considered that the functional skills training the complainant received was not a useful or suitable education for him as he was capable of GCSEs.

"This means in effect he received no education for 17 months in a significant period in his school career. Our guidance indicates that in the absence of suitable education, the remedy payment should be at the maximum end. I therefore consider the council should pay him £600 per month (£10,200 in total)," the report said.

It added: "The Council has also accepted it failed to ensure adequate contact between Mr D and his mother. Although I cannot say what Mr D's relationship with his family would have been like if contact had been maintained, I consider it would have been adversely affected by a lack of contact and that this has contributed to the difficulties now. This is a significant injustice, but the council has offered no remedy to Mr D to acknowledge that injustice."

In total, the council agreed to pay the complainant £11,350.

Kingston has been approached for comment.

Adam Carey

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