Dad asked to leave family home over 'unsubstantiated' allegations by care workers
PUBLISHED: 11:38 23 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:38 23 March 2019
A damning report into the treatment of a young girl and her family has found "fault and injustice" by three agencies involved in her care.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigated a couple’s complaint that Suffolk County Council, Colchester Hospital and the Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT) made unsubstantiated allegations about how they cared for their daughter.
Ombudsmen found fault causing injustice – concluding the father, mother and girl suffered avoidable distress and harm, disruption to their family life, and unnecessary expenses were incurred.
The hospital and EPUT publicly apologised to the family, while the council paid £500 to recognise avoidable distress caused by asking the father to leave the family home.
All three organisations will pay their share of an additional £2,000 to remedy distress and harm caused, and review their complaints and safeguarding procedures.
The ombudsman’s investigation focused on a series of “damaging allegations” about the parents’ care of their daughter.
It was claimed they minimised her health needs; denied she had an eating disorder; and undermined her treatment plan.
It was also alleged the father had an “inappropriate” physical relationship with his daughter (it was claimed she often sat on his lap), was controlling and abusive, and made a sexual pass at a male carer from the psychiatric inpatient unit she had been admitted to.
Such allegations led to the father being asked to leave the family home and banned from visiting his daughter at the hospital and the unit.
The girl is described as having “significant mental health difficulties”.
She was diagnosed with depression, OCD and anxiety with an eating disorder as an accompanying factor.
The allegations informed a safeguarding referral submitted to the council by the inpatient unit’s ward manager, and she was subsequently put on a child protection plan for neglect.
A report from the hospital made similar allegations.
However, a consultant at the inpatient unit raised concerns over “inaccurate medical information” included in the original safeguarding referral.
He said “both parents have always accepted” their daughter’s situation, and he did not consider the father’s relationship with her to be “inappropriate”.
The ombudsman found fault with a series of other incidents including the girl’s claim that a pregnancy test was taken without her consent at Colchester Hospital, following concerns raised by the inpatient unit.
The girl knew she wasn’t pregnant and claimed the hospital hadn’t asked her beforehand.
She had also alleged that a carer assaulted her, a claim the family felt was not investigated.
The original child protection plan was downgraded three months later to a ‘child in need’ plan.
This was because the original allegations could not be substantiated.
The girl, who cannot be named, is now at a different hospital placement.
How did the organisations respond to the report?
Andy Brogan, of EPUT, said the trust fully accepts the findings and acknowledges there are significant lessons to be learned.
“We are very sorry for the distress caused to the family involved by how we acted,” he said.
“We are working to improve how we provide our services in response to this and have shared what we have learnt – including the findings of our own investigations – across our Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services, in order to prevent a similar situation arising in future.
“A plan is in place to address all of the ombudsman’s recommendations.”
Representatives for the hospital added: “Our first and most important comment is to give our sincere apologies to the girl and her family.
“We have considered this report in detail and can give assurance that we have put in place the recommendations made for us to action.
“We now have much closer working relationships with all our partners including mental health services and equally importantly with parents and young people.”
A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “We are unable to comment on this case.”