Cancer patient went two years without seeing children after council blunder
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A man battling cancer went two years without seeing his children after they were taken into care because of the council’s repeated failures to keep them in contact.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman ruled that Norfolk County Council (NCC) should apologise to the man - known as Mr X - and pay £950 in compensation due to the “unnecessary distress” caused.
The complaint was initially handled by an council-appointed investigating officer before being escalated to the ombudsman.
According to the report, Mr X’s three children - B, C and D - became looked after by the council in 2014.
Though B did not want any contact with Mr X, he initially had regular contact with C and D.
This arrangement broke down when the children moved to a new foster placement further away from where the complainant lived in December 2014.
Despite C consistently asking to see their father, the council failed to re-establish contact until February 2017 - and given that meetings were supposed to be monthly, Mr X lost out on 26 sessions with his children.
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All the while, Mr X was undergoing multiple surgeries in his battle with cancer.
The report explains the council claimed it had no contact details for the parents and could not track them down - despite its own records disproving this.
After the first investigation, the officer found a constant change in social workers and the council's failure to facilitate contact warranted compensation of £300 to be paid to Mr X.
However, the ombudsman said this did not sufficiently acknowledge the detrimental impact the lost time had on Mr X and his relationship with his children. For this, it said the council should pay him a further £650.
It also recommended the council keep up to date contact numbers, and record all communication with parents of looked-after children.
In response, member for children's services John Fisher said the council "accepts the findings", has taken steps to remedy the injustice and is committed to service improvement.
“We’ve written to Mr X to apologise, and have made payments of £950 for the time, trouble and distress this issue has caused", he said.
“Since the events the Ombudsman has investigated, we’ve employed family network advisors to assist in building relationships between the council and the families of looked after children, and introduced a new Family Time service."