£20k pay out for Croydon family failed by social services

A self-harming teenage girl had to be sectioned after she was physically abused by her autisitc brother due to significant failures in Croydon’s social services department, an investigation found.

Alice Oakham* suffered years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her autistic older brother William*, who was receiving help from the authority because of his outbursts and mood swings.

But an investigation by a Government watchdog found the council failed to protect the family.

Despite four years of intervention, the social services department did not find a suitable alternative home for William, only managing to provide brief respite care, which the family said did not work.

The council has been told to pay the Oakhams £20,000 in compensation following an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

The family first sought help from the council in 2004 when Alice began self-harming after being repeatedly abused by William, putting their parents under severe strain and in desperate need of respite care.

She suffered mental illness and formed an inappropriate relationship with an older man she met on an internet chatroom when she was just 14.

Alice was sectioned under the mental health act in December 2007.

The LGO report said the council’s failures “had significant consequences for the health, happiness and wellbeing of the whole family as well as for William and Alice’s development at this important stage of their lives”.

It said: “It seems to me education and social care professionals did not work together effectively, either with one another or with healthcare officials in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, to ensure that not only William’s needs but those of his parents and sibling were met.

“There is ample evidence that in the years 2004 to 2008, William’s difficulties were taking an increasingly heavy toll on family life and the health of family members.

“His needs, along with the different but no less severe needs of Alice, became more and more problematic for the family to meet.

“It cannot be said that the wellbeing of either of the Oakham children or their parents as carers was protected or improved by the council’s involvement here.”

In total the LGO investigated 96 complaints against the council last year.

A Croydon Council spokesman said: “The report shows the number of complaints is falling and that Croydon Council continues to work hard to resolve any dispute as soon as it can.

“There were two cases of maladministration that, for a large authority serving more than 330,000 residents that dealt with about 1.5m contacts during the same time period, puts the detail of the report into context.”

* Names of the family have been changed for legal reasons.