Ombudsman finds council put 4-year-old at risk of gang crime

CROYDON IN CRISIS: In the latest adverse finding against Croydon Council, in a case that stretches back seven years, a young mother was ‘left to live in fear’ after she was subjected to threats at gun-point and her appeals to the authority ignored

Neglect: a four-year-old and their mother were at risk of gang crime, the Ombudsman ruled today

The Local Government Ombudsman has issued another withering criticism of Croydon Council, this time after it placed a four-year-old child at risk of gang violence, despite the child’s mother having previously been threatened at gun-point.

In a case of neglect that stretches back over seven years, the Ombudsman says that the council did not do enough to check on the child and their mother when their uncle was released from prison and allowed to live with them.

The child’s young mother left foster care in 2016 shortly after her 18th birthday. Despite the council having a legal duty to make sure the mother and child had a suitable place to live, for the next five years they lived in accommodation which she could not afford.

Consequently, the mother was left with significant rent arrears.

The woman’s younger brother left prison in 2018 and needed a fixed address because he was being monitored by the police. The young woman felt she had no option but to house him, despite him being at risk of gang-related violence and had received threats before at gunpoint.

She also gave up the second year of her university course to ensure her brother was safe.

The woman complained to the council about the lack of support she and her brother received when she left the council’s care. She then complained to the Ombudsman because she was not happy with the council’s response.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s investigation found that Croydon Council had not done enough to fully acknowledge or remedy the distress caused by its actions. It also criticised the way the council handled aspects of the woman’s complaint.

“The young woman at the centre of this case has told me how she lived in fear during the time her brother lived with her, with the very credible risk of him and her home being targeted by violent gangs,” Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said today.

“She felt she had to give up her university course to keep the household safe.

“Despite this, the council could not show any evidence it had looked into the risk this posed to the woman’s young child, who was only four years old at the time.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has in this case ordered Croydon Council to pay £9,250 plus any interest to the Student Finance Company to recognise the impact on the woman’s university studies and the debt she incurred.

The council will also pay her £1,000 to recognise the significant distress she suffered while living in unaffordable accommodation and for the credible fear she endured while providing an unregulated placement for her brother. The council has also agreed to pay her £300 to recognise the avoidable time and trouble she experienced during the complaints process.

The council has agreed to carry out work to understand why, when it was aware both young people were at risk of harm, it did not find out whether it needed to safeguard the woman’s child. It will also ensure all staff in its care leavers’ service understand their duty to ensure young people leaving care are supported to find suitable and affordable accommodation.

Croydon Council’s housing service has been in the spotlight for the past two years because of the appalling conditions inflicted on some tenants due to poor maintenance and repairs in their homes. Other criticisms have also emerged about the dysfunctional council’s poor management of its housing stock and council housing waiting lists.

Following an Ofsted inspection in 2017, Croydon’s children’s services department was declared “inadequate”. Such was the real risk then to the well-being of children, teens and young people in the council’s care that officials from outside Croydon were brought in to remedy the dire situation.

The department was given a revised Ofsted rating of “Good” in March 2020, but only after the council had spent an additional £30million in efforts to recruit more and better-experienced staff.

Today, after publishing this latest report of neglect of a family by Croydon Council, Ombudsman King said, “I’m pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, and hope the remedies it will now provide for the young woman will go some way to getting her life back on track after her distressing experiences.”

By the time of publication, Croydon Council had issued no statement of its own regarding this case, nor had Mayor Jason Perry made any apology or other comment on the case.

Read more: Ofsted finds Croydon children in ‘neglectful circumstances’
Read more: ‘Startling’ findings in Ombudsman report on children in care
Read more: Ombudsman finds council caused ‘crisis’ for man with autism

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2 Responses to Ombudsman finds council put 4-year-old at risk of gang crime

  1. sarah Bird says:

    Surely it is now time for Jason Perry to ensure that the staff employed are capable .Is there no end to the sheer level of ineptitude of the council? The Council has a Statutory Duty ,to say the least of a moral duty to look after vulnerable residents especially those who are in care or leave care. I would have thought the “legal department” could appraise the Council accordingly.

    The law is clear .Croydon Council and its officers are not above the law. Have those officers in this case been referred to their appropriate Governing Bodies ? Why are the relevant departments not in special measures?

    • Ian Kierans says:

      The issues raised here are still a factor for many households in North Croydon.
      The Council repeatedly does not look after Vulnerable residents and makes decisions that have no impact assessments available.
      The Council legal department may or may not advise the department senior managers but irrespective will defend their actions in court anyway to minimise costs and compensation.
      There are instances when claimants are deluged with legalise and time wasting letters and buried under reams of non essential data and processes more designed to wear those wronged people down.

      That is a fact of life and not just in Croydon.

      Changes to laws make it ever more difficult to challenge Council wrongdoing or get legal assistance to do so with most charitable services underfunded and overworked.
      You are going to find it difficult to protest, complain formally or even strike as more and more legislation is skewed to enable Political policies and restrict peoples rights.
      We may not like what Labour have done locally but we will like what the Conservatives have done Nationally even less.

      Here is an unpleasant reality that no one likes to say but happens a lot when finances are tight in particular organisation.
      £11,500 is cheaper than providing what should have been provided. Especially when it is unclear as to the value of spending money and time in the first place that may not give the desired effect or outcome.

      Some factors the Ombudsman should be looking at is
      1. Was this a one off event?
      2. Are there failures of process?
      3. Does the relevant departments have the correct resources to deal with the matters in most circumstances
      4. Were performance and budget matters a factor in decisions that were made?
      5. Has this body made unreasonable decisions previously, not just in that area but in others. ie how many Ombudsman/regulator/Judicial reviews against the body have there been in the last 5 years and has there been changes made after each one?

      When you ask those questions and get the full data you begin to see if the body itself is being run appropriately and even if it is actually fit for purpose.

      Overall though a good outcome for the child and mother but a great shame it had to go that far due to a councils failure to recognise its flaws and deal with them itself in good time.

      The lady should be congratulated for having the strength and courage to see this through to the end and looking to protect her family.
      I do hope she resumes her studies and that her ordeal is recognised by those who grant student finance – as that strength of character should not be wasted and should realise its full potential.

      Well done

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