Edinburgh council slammed for failing to support child leaving care

Edinburgh City Chambers. Picture: TSPL
Edinburgh City Chambers. Picture: TSPL
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The city council has been rapped for failing to support a child leaving care – including wrongly advising her to present as homeless to be offered somewhere to live.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), which investigates complaints against public authorities, told the council to apologise to the complainant and launch an “audit of young people under their care that are due to leave their care placement in the next 12 months”.

In the SPSO report, the complainant, referred to as Ms C, was an advisor to Ms A – who was a looked after child by the council in a foster care placement, which ended with short notice.

At the time, the council advised Ms A that she should present as homeless “in order to secure accommodation”. Ms C complained to the SPSO that the council “failed to provide the required support and after-care to Ms A as a looked after child, and that they wrongly used homelessness legislation in order to secure accommodation for Ms A.”

Opposition councillors have lambasted the council for its lack of support. Conservative councillor Callum Laidlaw said: “I’m shocked by this case and think it’s an appalling dereliction of duty by the council as the corporate parent to looked after children like Ms A.

“To fail to prepare and support Ms A in finding alternative accommodation and instead ask her to go through the stress and worry of presenting as homeless shows very little care or understanding for the 
individual who has to rely on the council for her care and well being.”

Green Cllr Susan Rae said: “One of the most depressing aspects of speaking to young homeless people is how many have been in care in the past.

“Councils have known about this for decades and it beggars belief that young people who have been in care are still being told that the only way they can get accommodation is through a homeless application.

“Recent legislation extended the period for which councils remain responsible for young people who have been in care.

“All sensible councils should be using that duty to plan and support young people in getting set up, without ever need to go through the crisis of homelessness.”

A spokesperson for the SPSO said: “While the council acknowledged they failed to provide consistent support to Ms A, we did not consider that the council adequately acknowledged their failings.

“We identified that the council missed a number of opportunities to plan proactively for Ms A leaving care, that they wrongly advised Ms A to present as homeless and that they failed to evidence the after-care support they provided. We upheld this aspect of the complaint.”

The council has recruited two care experienced young people to work alongside councillors and senior officers.

A council spokesman said a full apology had been issued to the complainant, adding: “We are always looking to deliver better services for our care experienced young people and we are actively working to get more young people involved in shaping our services.”