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Bexley Council fined for mishandling child protection case

PUBLISHED: 16:30 28 November 2011

Jane Martin

Jane Martin

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Bexley Council has been ordered to pay a mother £5,000 after it made serious flaws with how it handled her daughter's allegations of abuse.

The Local Government Ombudsman also ordered the council to apologise to the mother and pay her legal fees which amount to £7,741.08.

The report which was embargoed until last Thursday (24) found that the council failed to properly resolve an earlier informal child protection investigation and so took further action, not because of renewed fears but because a reference request from another authority meant the girl needed to be informed of the earlier investigation.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said: “The complainant has been caused an understandable sense of outrage by an investigation which led to a significant interference in her family life, but without always treating her fairly or affording her the important procedural safeguards intended for alleged perpetrators.”

Dr Martin’s report found that there was a failure to produce and implement a clear investigation plan, inappropriate questioning, a failure to promptly pursue reasonable lines of enquiry and a failure to record evidence and decisions.

A spokesman for Bexley Council said: “Our focus in this case was centred firmly on protecting a vulnerable young person at serious risk. It was the interests of this young person that dominated our approach. We believe that exercising our professional judgement to take her into care was in her best interests.

“This case is more than four-years-old. It was a complex situation made particularly difficult by the fact that the parent worked for the Council in a social work team in Children and Young People’s Services.

“We fully accept the findings and will carry out the recommendations in the Ombudsman’s report. Some time ago we changed our administrative processes in case a similar situation should ever arise.

“We regret the impact this has had on the complainant. Over the past four years we have made an official apology to her and have also suggested a number of resolutions, including offering independent family counselling and compensation. We will be offering this once again in light of the Ombudsman’s recommendations.”

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