Mother lost 'precious moments' with child due to Bucks council failings

County Hall in AylesburyCounty Hall in Aylesbury
County Hall in Aylesbury
A Bucks mother said she ‘lost precious moments of her children’s lives’ after council blunders caused her ‘avoidable distress and uncertainty’.

Buckinghamshire Council has been forced to apologise to the woman and pay her £250 for errors the now-defunct County Council made during a year-long child custody wrangle.

The mother and her husband — who have been anonymised by a report from the Local Government Ombudsman — separated and had shared custody of their three children under an informal agreement.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Two allegations were made against the mother by one of her children, which led to the County Council becoming involved with the family through a ‘section 47’ investigation.

Social worker files noted ‘the children did not want to stay with their mother’ so she signed a handwritten agreement with her ex-husband for her children to stay with him for a few weeks.

The letter referenced a section 20 agreement, which forces councils to provide accommodation for children who do not have somewhere suitable to live and typically requires the parents’ approving the accommodation of the child.

But in October 2018, she complained about Bucks County Council’s involvement with her family after she claimed she only saw her children ‘occasionally’ after signing the agreement.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

An investigating officer upheld most of the mother’s complaints, finding the County Council made errors including:

Failure to advise the mother of her right to seek legal advice.

Failure to explain why it had not supported the mother in achieving more regular child contact.

Social workers refused to communicate with the mother via email but did so with her ex-husband.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Council failed to carry out the six weekly visits to see the children despite an August 2018 action plan saying it should.

Following the complaints verdict, the mother said her desired outcome from the custody row was “not wanting another mother to go through what she had”.

She said she had ‘lost precious moments of her children’s lives due to errors by the Council and the alienation caused between herself and her children’.

The mother took the complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, an authority watchdog, whose investigators found the County Council’s “lack of support and communication” caused “an injustice” to the mother which caused her “avoidable distress and uncertainty.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In light of the LGO’s findings, the new Buckinghamshire Council (BC) has confirmed a compensation payment was made and an apology was given to the mother.

Mark Shaw, Children’s Services boss at BC, said: “In this instance, the level of service the former County Council provided was not to the high standards that our families deserve and that the council usually provides.

“We have taken action to ensure the learning points from the complaint investigation have been followed through to become part of our usual good quality social work practice, to ensure our children and families are safe and protected.”