Council fined after failing to carry out Care Order

A council has been criticised after it failed to deliver the support it promised to a disadvantaged family.

Leading the investigation, the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (the Ombudsman) said the careless actions of Lancashire County Council put the family’s health and wellbeing at serious risk.

According to the report, a mother of three, who took on the care of her two grandchildren, was promised an extension by Lancashire County Council as part of a Care Order granted in 2005.

In 2007, the woman bought a property as agreed with the council and plans were drawn up to extend the house to make provision for an additional bedroom and shower room, as well as extra kitchen and utility space.

However, the local authority failed to arrange the extension for over a decade, meaning the mother and one of her children were forced to sleep on a mattress in the living room for more than 10 years in “significantly overcrowded” conditions.

Citing the significant costs of the work, which had increased by £50,000 since first agreed, the council told the woman the extension would no longer go ahead.

The case was taken before the Ombudsman, who found that the council “delayed getting an agreement for the extension” and “reneged on its agreement to build it once the costs had escalated”.

Investigators also found that the authority had failed to provide the family with a people-carrier type car, as agreed in the Care Order.

Commenting on the case, Ombudsman Michael King said: “Lancashire County Council agreed to extend the woman’s property as part of a Care Order, which was made to promote the welfare of her two vulnerable grandchildren. The council failing to comply with the order is extremely serious, and it could have put the children’s placement at risk.

“Throughout the period five children have grown up and become young adults – because of the overcrowding, the whole family has struggled with a lack of privacy and emotional development. The extension would have significantly improved their living conditions had it been built as agreed.”

The council agreed to apologise to the family and pay the mother £24,000 to compensate for the “avoidable stress” suffered.

Mr King added: “While the remedy we have recommended cannot make up for the long-term distress of living in such overcrowded conditions, I hope it can go some way to providing for a stable future for the family.”