Birmingham council 'lost' girl with special needs for four years after social workers lost contact

 

A Birmingham girl with special needs “vanished in the system” for four years after social workers lost contact with the child.

Support staff identified the girl, whose complex needs include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia and communication difficulties, as disabled in November 2006 when she was seven years old.

The girl’s mother was at the time provided with 10 hours per month of support despite not having had an assessment completed, according to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

The council then lost sight of the child 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 her needs or those of her mother, a single parent with little family support.

The council promised three further assessments of the girl’s needs between January 2012 and May 2013, none of which were carried out properly. The mother also complained to the LGO in December 2012, at which time the council agreed to complete a core assessment - but social workers failed to carry this out. By July last year the girl was 15 and her difficulties had increased.

The council has agreed to pay the mother £4,000 for the failed assessment and £1,000 for her time and trouble in bringing the complaint to the ombudsman.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: “Birmingham city council 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.”

A 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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