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Birmingham social services ‘lost’ disabled girl for four years, inquiry finds

Birmingham social services ‘lost’ disabled girl for four years, inquiry finds

🕔20.Mar 2014

Birmingham children’s services is at the centre of fresh criticism after an inquiry found that a young girl with severe special needs was “lost in the system” for more than four years by social workers and did not receive the help she needed.

The Local Government Ombudsman concluded the council “had no idea” what the needs of the girl were or of her mother and had “singularly failed” to assess the problems properly.

Social workers identified the girl, who has autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia and communication difficulties, as a disabled child in November 2006 when she was seven-years-old.

At that time, the girl’s mother was provided with 10 hours per month of support, despite not having had an assessment completed by social workers.

The council lost sight of the girl until March 2011 – and when they did contact the family, social workers’ assessment of the girl’s situation was flawed, and did not fully consider either the girl’s needs or those of her mother, a single parent with little family support.

Three further assessments of the girl’s needs were promised by the council between January 2012 and May 2013, none of which was carried out properly. The mother complained to the ombudsman in December 2012, at which time the council agreed to complete a core assessment – but social workers also failed to carry this out.

By July 2013 the girl was 15 and her difficulties had increased, she struggled with her posture and stability, she had sensory difficulties, trouble sleeping and needed help with toileting, bathing and getting dressed. The council’s disabled children’s services had not completed or offered a separate carer’s assessment for the mother.

The case is the latest embarrassing episode for Birmingham children’s social services, which has been under Government special measures and subject to an improvement plan for more than four years.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: “For much of this girl’s life, her mother has been left to bring up her child alone and without much help from the council. Birmingham City Council has had no idea what her needs were or those of her mother.

“And when they made attempts to assess her, the council admits its service was poor, unsupportive and not focused on an outcome for the girl.

“The council has failed to provide me with evidence that it knows what this girl’s needs are, what her mother’s needs are as a carer and how those needs can be met in the future. It has singularly failed to assess the family’s needs and cannot possibly say that the direct payments it has offered to the family are sufficient.”

The council has agreed to pay the mother £4,000 for failing to assess properly the needs of the girl between November 2006 and March 2011, and £1,000 for the time and trouble in bringing the complaint to the ombudsman.

The council will also pay the mother an amount, at a level set by the ombudsman, following an independent assessment of the girl’s needs for any shortfall in service received from August 2011 onwards.

The council will also reimburse the mother for up to three days’ unpaid leave from work to enable her to engage fully with the independent social worker to complete the assessments within the timescales allowed.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “We have made improvements to our procedures, including increased senior management oversight and an updated system for responding to complaints, including the tracking of any follow-up action and gathering customer feedback. We have also put in place further staff training to improve quality of single assessments.”

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