In May 2019, the Ombudsman criticised Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council for underpaying Special Guardianship Allowances to a family in the area. However, instead of complying with the decision, the council challenged its findings in the High Court.
Rochdale council’s challenge was unsuccessful.
The case involved grandparents who had been granted a Special Guardianship Order to look after their grandchild, giving them responsibility for day-to-day decisions. The couple complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman because their allowance did not increase in line with fostering allowance rates, nor were they given the age band increase for the child as agreed.
As a result, they continued to receive the Level 1 fostering allowance of £119.18 a week instead of the enhanced rate of £132 a week.
It was found that they were entitled to an extra £13 a week, and the council have been asked to calculate and make backdated payments going back to November 2013.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council’s policy on paying the allowance, which had not been agreed by any formal committee, was not in line with statutory guidance, caselaw, or its own internal legal advice.
They have recommended that the council should reconsider its policy for Special Guardianship Allowances in light of the statutory guidance, caselaw and the Ombudsman’s focus reports.
They have also recommended that Rochdale identify other Special Guardians similarly affected and make backdated payments to them too.
Lucy Peake, Chief Executive said: “Sadly, this is another case of special guardians having to fight for the financial allowances they should be getting. We’re calling for a national minimum allowance for kinship carers to cover the costs of raising someone else’s child. At the moment, it’s a postcode lottery and too many kinship carers are being plunged into poverty without the financial support they need.”