Councils advised to check information sharing agreements with service providers

Councils advised to check information sharing agreements with service providers

Councils are being urged to check they have adequate information sharing agreements with their service providers, after one council was not able to comply with an agreed Ombudsman remedy because it could not get hold of the data needed.

London Borough of Ealing had agreed to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s recommendation to carry out a statutory Children’s Services complaint investigation to remedy a complaint from one of its foster carers.

However, despite agreeing to carry out the review, Ealing was unable to access the data it needed from the National Fostering Agency (NFA) which arranged placements on its behalf.

The NFA said it could not provide data about the children the foster carers had looked after because the foster parents did not have the right to request the information.

The Ombudsman’s subsequent investigation found the council had not considered that it was itself acting in loco parentis and therefore had the right to request the children’s information from the agency.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“When councils enter into contracts with service providers they need to ensure the different parties’ responsibilities are clear from the outset – this can include areas such as complaints resolution and, as in this case, information sharing.

“Because no such agreement was in place with the agency, a foster carer has been waiting more than two years for her complaint to be resolved by Ealing Council, despite its best intentions to do so.

“I’m pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, and hope the changes it will now make will ensure any future cases will be easier to investigate.”

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