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Father handed compensation after safeguarding investigation complaint

Local authorities must give parents “clear information” when asking them to leave the family home during safeguarding investigations, it has been warned.

The reminder comes after it was found that Newcastle City Council had acted improperly by not informing a father that leaving the home was a voluntary practice.

According to the report, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman received a complaint raised by a man following an allegation that he had been harming his children. The father was asked to leave his property while a safeguarding investigation was carried out – but was not made clear that this demand was voluntary.

While the allegation was ultimately withdrawn, the man said he was left in “distress” with the uncertainty of not knowing how long he would be away from his family.

The man also complained that his family support worker – referred to him after the investigation – stopped visiting after just seven sessions.

The Ombudsman also found that the council took “around seven months longer” to complete its investigation than the timeframes in the children’s services statutory complaints procedure allow, and offended the man by suggesting he may have misunderstood their advice because “his first language is not English”.

Upholding the complaint, the council agreed to apologise to the man and pay him £1,150 “in recognition of the time, trouble, uncertainty and distress his family have been caused”.

Handing down the written warning, Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Councils have a duty to safeguard children when allegations are made that they are at risk of harm, but they cannot insist on a parent leaving the family home without first gaining their voluntary consent.

“In this case, the events that unfolded left the man feeling distressed and insulted. He says his relationship with his family has been irreparably damaged, so I welcome the council already recognising it had work to do to improve its services before the complaint came to me, and had already gone some way to remedying the situation for the man.”

For help and advice with related matters, please get in touch with our expert family law team today.

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Peter Burden

Peter Burden

Associate Director and Head of the Family Department at Mander Hadley Solicitors
I am experienced in all areas of family law, including divorce, financial remedy claims, disputes over children, separation agreements, cohabitation disputes, pre and post nuptial agreements, living together agreements, non-molestation orders and occupation orders.

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