Scottish Borders Council ordered to apologise after family was 'unreasonably excluded' from a young person's care

Scottish Borders Council has issued an apology after an independent watchdog found social work staff ‘unreasonably excluded’ a family from decisions affecting a young person in residential care.

By Paul Kelly
Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 9:16 am
Scottish Borders Council headquarters.
Scottish Borders Council headquarters.

The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman also criticised a lack of clear communication from staff with the young person’s family, finding they “misunderstood their concerns.”

The ombudsman’s report outlines improvements the council must carry out and ordered it to issue an apology to the complainant – which the authority has already done.

The matter came about when the ombudsman received a complaint about the council's social work involvement with the unidentified young person.

The youngster, who was transitioning from child to adult services, had a range of conditions that affected their development and behaviour had been placed in residential care.

The ombudsman subsequently found the council could have done more to facilitate

clear communication with the family in the child’s care planning and assessments. The ombudsman’s report adds: “We also found that the council unreasonably excluded C from certain aspects of the decision-making process for A.

“We upheld all of C's complaints."

Recommendations included social workers allowing enough time to carry out the appropriate planning and assessment work.

The report adds: “Social work staff should take into account the young person's wishes about their family's involvement in the decision-making process. Social work staff should meet with families to discuss and address any issues prior to children's hearing/review meetings and try to agree a course of action to present to the children’s panel/review officer.

“Social work staff should endeavour to use emails to contact clients/their families, when that is their preference, as it is more effective and efficient than corresponding by post.

“Unless there is good reason not to, social work staff should arrange a face-to-face meeting or a phone call to discuss sensitive matters, rather than communicating the information in writing.”

In response, a spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said: “In response to the finding of the SPSO, Scottish Borders Council has issued an apology to Mr C for the failings identified. In addition to this, staff briefings in relation to the learning identified have taken place across the service.

“Work is also underway to develop standardized practice regarding email communication to include guidance and protocols for staff, as well as a document that can be shared with parents of Looked After Children when they turn 16 and the children/young people themselves; to include the changes in parent’s rights, the legal duties placed on social work to consider the wishes of the child/young person and how the service plans are to work with the families.”