Council social services under fire over inconsistent handling of teenage boy’s care

Council social services bosses have come under fire from a High Court judge over the way they handled the case of a 14-year-old boy with “complex needs” who left his mother’s home nearly nine years ago.

Mr Justice Keehan described Worcestershire County Council’s “failings” as “egregious in the extreme”.

He said 22 social workers had been involved but there had been “no consistent planning” for the boy’s care; staff had not given the boy therapeutic support; bosses had taken too long to ask a judge take control of the case; and the boy’s foster carers had not been given adequate support.

The judge said lawyers representing the boy had sued for damages.

Council bosses had accepted liability and negotiations about the size of a payout were continuing, he said.

He said council chiefs had acknowledged their failings and were trying to ensure there was no repeat.

Mr Justice Keehan outlined his concerns in a written ruling published on Monday after analysing evidence at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court about a month ago.

He has named Worcestershire County Council as the local authority involved.

But he said the boy cannot be identified in media reports.

Mr Justice Keehan said the boy’s mother, who died more than two years ago, had agreed to him going into council care in late 2010.

The boy, whose father is unknown, has lived with the same foster carers ever since.

“There was no consistent planning for him through a succession of 22 social workers,” said Mr Justice Keehan.

“I readily recognise that all children’s services departments are under great pressure as a result of increasing demands on their services and the economic climate.

“Neither, however, to my satisfaction explain the local authority’s past failings in this case.”

He added: “I have been roundly critical of this local authority.”

Mr Justice Keehan described the boy’s foster carers as “wonderful” and said they had given the boy “the best of practical care”.

He said everyone involved agreed that the teenager should stay with his foster carers under a special guardianship order.

The judge said he had approved that plan.

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