A young girl whose mother died was on the brink of being deported out of the UK due to a blunder by Birmingham City Council, it’s been revealed.
The 11-year-old was born in the UK but because she had no family here when she was orphaned social workers in Birmingham considered deporting her to the country where her surviving relatives lived.
Birmingham City Council has been criticised for its actions in a ruling by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
After her mother’s death, the girl was being looked after by family friends who applied to the council for help and financial support in their roles as foster parents.
But the council maintained it was a “private arrangement” and refused their application for allowances and the support of a social worker.
The couple appealed against the decision and today (December 10) the ombudsman found in their favour and said the council should have granted their application and treated the girl as a “looked after child” which meant she had legal protection.
The ombudsman found that by not recognising the mother’s friends as the official foster carers, the girl missed out on all the additional support and protections a fostered child gets.
This included regular reviews of her care plan, appointing an independent office to ensure her voice was heard and getting her legal advice and representation to ensure she could stay in the country.
In its report, the ombudsman said: “At one point, the council suggested telling the carers to go to court if they wanted to continue to care for the child, or she would be deported the following month when her leave to remain expired.
“The council did not act, so the foster parents had to use money set aside by the girl’s mother in a trust fund to make a successful application for British citizenship.”
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said“ The foster carers experienced prolonged frustration at the council’s refusal to consider them as anything other than private foster carers.
“They have had to deal with the stress of meeting the girl’s needs, securing her residence and citizenship, and pursuing their complaint – all without the support they should have been entitled to.
“The council should have done more to ensure the girl’s needs were met. Her placement living with the couple was at risk, and the council did not do enough to make sure she had the correct legal protection to remain in the country and she lost contact with her only remaining relatives.”
After the ombudsman’s ruling, Birmingham City Council has agreed to apologise to the girl and pay her £1,000 for the uncertainty and distress. It will also apologise to the foster couple and pay them £1,000.
The foster parents will also receive the allowances they should have received and a payment will be made into the girl’s trust fund to cover the cost of her application for citizenship.
The council will also remind its social workers of their responsibilities with children in private fostering arrangements and will review the arrangements in all current such cases.
A spokesman for Birmingham Children’s Trust, which has the role of caring for looked-after children for Birmingham City Council, said they accepted the ombudsman’s findings.
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“We accept the findings and recommendations made by the Ombudsman, and we recognise that there are aspects of this case that we could have managed in a better way,” he said.
“We have extended our sincere apologies to the complainant and the young person involved.
“We are in the process of completing all the immediate recommendations made by the ombudsman. We will continue to support our staff to promote contact between privately fostered children and their parents, and we will commence a review of all open cases of private fostering and cases involving unaccompanied children.”