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A foster carer received no financial support for six years

Posted on January 26th 2017

A foster carer, who took on three vulnerable children after their mother could no longer care for them, has failed to get any financial support from the Local Authority for six years.

In an act of selflessness, the foster carer took the three children in when it became apparent that neither the mother nor her family were able to take care of them. This was despite the carer barely knowing the children at the time. Whilst the two eldest children left after staying only a month, the youngest child continues to live with the carer.

The Local government ombudsman investigated this matter and the London borough of Tower Hamlets has been asked to provide the support it should have given from the outset.

The Local Authority’s Argument

The Local Authority argued that they were not required to pay any financial support as they believed that the foster carer had entered into a ‘private fostering’ arrangement. This is when the parent of the child has made an arrangement with another adult to care for their child without the involvement of a private fostering agency or the Local Authority. If this is the case, the parent is responsible for providing the foster carer with financial support.

During court proceedings, the Judge said there was no evidence it was a private arrangement and stated that the foster carer’s request for support from the council had been “woefully overlooked.”

It was revealed that the Local Authority had made a number of errors. They failed to explain to the carer that they believed she would be entering into a private arrangement. Furthermore, a private arrangement would have been difficult to formally establish, given that the mother could not consent to this at the time because of her addiction to drugs and alcohol. The Local Authority were also wrong in claiming that they were not involved in the placement, given that they had placed the children on child protection plans.

Conclusion

A focus report in 2013 sets out what should happen in cases involving family and friends carers. Despite this, there appears to be a number of cases where councils are trying to pass the responsibility onto somebody else. In this case the courts stated the council had been so involved it was hard to see how it could be considered a private arrangement.

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said:

“We fully accept the Ombudsman’s findings and we are grateful to the carer for the care she has provided, and continues to provide, to the children involved in this case. We have now reviewed our processes to make sure this does not reoccur in similar circumstances. We will shortly be compensating her for the time she cared for the children.”

This case highlights the importance of carers obtaining the relevant advice in the early stages where they take over care of someone else’s children. Importantly, it demonstrates that local authorities need to be clear about the nature of the arrangement in place and what financial support is available from the outset.


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