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Firm Foundations report criticises local authorities for flouting the law at kinship carers’ expense

Published: 17th May 2018

2 minute read

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s report Firm Foundations criticises local authorities for flouting the law at family and friends carers’ expense

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report issued today shows that some local authorities are flouting the law in the way that they treat family and friends carers, who have a special guardianship order for a child who cannot live with their parents. As the report states, these carers are grandparents, siblings, other relatives or friends “who take on the child, out of love, in the aftermath of a crisis”.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s report conducted 322 detailed investigations into complaints about special guardianship orders and wider fostering and child protection issues. They upheld seven out of every 10 complaints, significantly higher than their average rate in all their work of 57%.

They found that some local authorities had incorrectly calculated, changed and cut financial allowances for special guardians. In some cases, families were not given the right information or advice to make an informed decision about becoming a special guardian, with lasting consequences. In other cases, support that was promised was not forthcoming.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group, said:

The Firm Foundations report reflects the experience of family members ringing our advice service. It also resonates with the survey, conducted by Family Rights Group and Grandparents Plus, which found that 93% of carers felt that they hadn’t been given enough information about finance when they took on care of the children and 41% of those receiving some form of regular local allowance said it had been reduced or been cut entirely as a result of a change in their local authority’s policy.

Special guardians are relatives and friends who have done the right thing by children who would otherwise be in the care system. Unlike adopters, these special guardians don’t get paid leave so many are forced to leave their jobs when the children come to live with them. They are then forced on to benefits. Too often local authorities then ride roughshod over their and the children’s needs, taking advantage of these carers’ good nature and lack of knowledge of the system.

Action is needed now by central and local government. Councils are under severe financial pressures but that is not a justification for their failing to comply with the law.

Alongside all councils needing to comply with the Ombudsman’s report, central government also needs to step up to the mark by:

  • Enabling special guardians to have a right to paid leave
  • Exempting child tax credit, received by special guardians for the children they are raising, from the benefit cap.
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